Landscapes, flowers, and trees of the four seasons

Artist: Kano Motonobu (1476-1559)
Historical period(s)
Muromachi period, early 16th century
Ink, color, and gold on paper
H x W: 175.2 x 375.8 cm (69 x 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)

cloud, flower, Japan, landscape, Muromachi period (1333 - 1573), season
Provenance research underway.

When these screens were purchased by the Freer Gallery of Art in 1955, scholars were puzzled by the contrast between the styles of the twelve landscape paintings painted in ink on silk and the brilliantly colored border designs embellished by gold-leafed clouds. Some suggested that the paintings were originally mounted as hanging scrolls and only later remounted to the ornately decorated screen. Only recently, in light of research on the emergence of screen painting during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, have scholars realized that these screens preserve an unusual style combining separate ink  paintings with gold and color screen painting that was fashionable in the late Muromachi period (1392-1573).

These screens reproduce a custom of that period, when groups of hanging scroll paintings were hung temporarily against the richly decorative background of a freestanding gold and color folding screen. Both the ink paintings mounted on each panel and the surrounding design of plants of the four seasons were produced in the workshop of Kano Motonobu, the leading professional painter of the Kano school in the first half of the sixteenth century.

Published References
  • Shinbi taikan [(Selected Relics of Japanese Art]. 20 vols., Kyoto and Tokyo, 1899-1908. vol. 9: pl. 22.
  • Tajima Shiichi. Motonobu gashu. 3 vols., Tokyo, 1904-1907. vol. 2: pls. 4-9.
  • Tajima Shiichi. Masterpieces by Motonobu: With Critical Descriptions and a Biographical Sketch of the Artist. 2 vols., Tokyo. vol. 2: pls. 56-60.
  • Rosina Buckland. Golden Fantasies: Japanese Screens from New York Collections. Exh. cat. New York. p. 12.
  • Robert Paine Jr. Hsia Kuei and Motonobu. vol. 9 Paris. p. 154, pls. 58-59.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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