Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons: Spring and Summer

Artist: Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506)
Historical period(s)
Muromachi period, late 15th- early 16th century
Ink and color on paper
H x W: 178.1 × 375.7 cm (70 1/8 × 147 15/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Screen (six-panel)

bird, Buddhism, flower, Japan, Muromachi period (1333 - 1573), spring, summer
Provenance research underway.

After a period of travel and study in China in from 1467 to 1469, the Zen Buddhist monk and painter Sesshu returned to Japan. Recognized during his stay in China as a gifted artist, Sesshu directed his experience and skills toward creating a distinctive new Japanese interpretation of Chinese artistic traditions. In the pair of screens F1953.94-95, he follows the Japanese convention of creating a landscape with a seasonal progression from spring at the far right to winter at the far left. The focus on birds and flowers, however, derives from a traditional subject of Chinese painting.

Sesshu's painting style also reflects Chinese sources in its emphasis on three-dimensional form and observation of the natural world. His interest in dramatic compositions emphasizing spatial depth can be seen in the large, gnarled branch in the foreground of the screen at left, which disappears into water and reemerges to frame a view of the distant, snow-covered mountains. Precise control of ink tones and brush technique, which Sesshu learned from his study of Chinese painting, enhance the expressive quality of this image.

Published References
  • Zaigai Nihon no Shiho [Japanese Art: Selections from Western Collections]. 10 vols., Tokyo, 1979 - 1980. vol. 3: p. 133, pl. 46-49.
  • Osaka Municipal Museum of Art. Chusei byobu-e. Kyoto. pl. 57.
  • Mayuyama Junkichi. Japanese Art in the West. Tokyo. pl. 160a-b.
  • Ikeda Tsunedaro. Zoho Nihon shoga koitto daijiten [Dictionary of Writers, Painters, Calligraphers, and Antiquities of Japan]. Tokyo and Osaka. pl. 24.
  • Genshoku Nihon no Bijutsu [A Kaleidoscope of Japanese Art]. 30 vols., Tokyo, 1966-1980. vol. 27: pls. 57-58.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 28, vol. 2: p. 160.
  • Nakajima Junji. Study of Flower and Bird Screens by Sesshu and Artists of His School. no. 252, March 1972. pp. 4-23.
  • Nakajima Junji. Study of Flower and Bird Screens by Sesshu and Artists of His School. no. 205, April 1958. pp. 4-21.
  • Nakajima Junji. Study of Flower and Bird Screens by Sesshu and Artists of His School. no. 199 Tokyo, October 1967. pp. 9-30, fig. 9, 48.
  • Takasu Toyoji. On Sesshu's Screen Paintings Dealing with Flower and Birds of the Four Seasons. no. 62 Tokyo, April 1956. pp. 12-15.
  • Ellen Roberts. A Marriage of the Extreme East and the Extreme West: Japanism and Aestheticism in Louis Comfort Tiffany's Rooms in the Bella Apartments. vol. 8, no. 2 New York, 2006. p. 21, fig. 12.
  • Zadankai: Sesshu no Kachoga. no. 970 Tokyo. p. 28, fig. 12.
  • W. Aubrey Cartwright. Guide to Art Museums in the United States: East Coast, Washington to Miami., 1st ed. New York. p. 37.
  • Sesshu Toyo. Birds and Flowers on Paper Screens. no. 471 Tokyo. p. 45, pl. 5.
  • Harold P. Stern. New Sesshu Screens at the Freer Gallery., Summer 1955. pp. 54-56.
  • Helen Comstock. The Connoisseur in America: Screens by Sesshu. vol. 132, no.532 London, September 1953. p. 68.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 111.
  • Peter C. Swann. An Introduction to the Arts of Japan. New York. p. 126, fig. 100.
  • Nakamura Tanio, Kanazawa Hiroshi. Sesshu gagyo shusei. Tokyo. pp. 128-129.
  • Keiko Kawamoto. Nihon byobue shusei. 18 vols., Tokyo, 1977-1982. pp. 150-1, 172, pl. 9.
  • The Horizon Book of the Arts of China. New York. pp. 350-351.
  • Larry Ball. 30,000 Years of Art: The Story of Human Creativity Across Time and Space. London and New York, 2007. p. 713.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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