Attributed to Tosa Mitsunobu (Japanese, 1434–1535)
Pair of six-panel folding screens; color, ink, and gold on paper
68 5/8 x 150 1/4 in. (174.3 x 381.6 cm)
The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975 (1975.268.44,45)
The four seasons were a favorite theme of Japanese artists and poets. The right-side screen shows a stand of bamboo in the spring and summer, while the left side depicts bamboo in autumn and winter. The idea of constancy and change in nature is expressed in the seasonal cycle. The Tosa school artist made this point even more explicit by painting the changes of nature in one place that is otherwise constant. He also added an air of intimacy by presenting the clumps of bamboo close to the foreground of the composition, as though the viewer is seeing them through a window.
The Tosa school of painting, firmly established in the mid-Muromachi period, specialized in the traditional style of yamato-e. The school was known especially for paintings that featured purely Japanese subject matter, often drawn from poetry, romantic narratives, and themes associated with the four seasons or famous scenic locations. Painters working in yamato-e eschewed the brushwork and spatial depth associated with Chinese-style paintings (kara-e) in favor of flat, dramatic compositions and a bold isolation of, or emphasis on, certain major pictorial motifs.