Pheasants and Cherry Trees
First quarter 17th century
Ink, color, and gold on paper
H: 165.0 W: 63.4 cm
Now that spring has sprung I figured it would be the perfect time to explore nature themed exhibits at the Freer Sackler Gallery. Once there, the Seasonal Landscapes in Japanese Screens exhibit featuring four beautiful pieces caught my eye.
Screens have both a practical and aesthetic value, especially in Japanese culture. “They are ideally suited for use in the flexible spatial environment of traditional Japanese architecture, where most interior partitions consist of sliding panels rather than fixed walls.” They can be used both as a free standing partition and as the means to display art. The works on view featured large-scale scenes of nature and animals. One of the works on display was eight panels long!
What struck me most about the screens was both the complexity and simplicity present in the subjects. The plants, flowers, trees and animals were wonderfully colored and detailed. This presented a great contrast to the landscape which employed minimal or no use of color especially when portraying water. Another interesting dichotomy was the choice of panel which could be used to bring either a sense of light or dark to the space it was meant to occupy. Traditionally, screens often portrayed seasonal changes in the landscape. It’s quite wonderful to see scenes of summer and winter or spring and fall contained in same piece of art. One thing common to the four works was the utter lack of people; it seems nature is the preferred subject and naturalism the preferred style. While I was at the museum I noticed there was also an exhibit featuring Chinese landscapes. Comparing and contrasting the Japanese and Chinese landscape styles makes for an interesting outing.
Something you can’t help but notice are the various cherry blossom trees depicted on the screens. This ties in perfectly with the National Cherry Blossom Festival currently in full swing. In fact, this Saturday, April 4th, is the American Art Museum’s Cherry Blossom Family Celebration. This weekend’s spring-like forecast makes it the perfect time to enjoy the cherry blossoms and various Smithsonian related events and exhibits.