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四季山水図
Landscapes of the Four Seasons

Artist:
Yamamoto Baiitsu (Japanese, 1783–1856)
Period:
Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:
1848
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Set of four hanging scrolls; ink and color on silk
Dimensions:
Image (a): 40 3/8 × 13 7/8 in. (102.6 × 35.2 cm) Overall with mounting (a): 75 1/16 × 19 3/4 in. (190.7 × 50.1 cm) Overall with knobs (a): 75 1/16 × 21 5/8 in. (190.7 × 55 cm) Image (b): 40 3/8 × 13 7/8 in. (102.6 × 35.3 cm) Overall with mounting (b): 75 1/4 × 19 11/16 in. (191.2 × 50 cm) Overall with knobs (b): 75 1/4 × 21 11/16 in. (191.2 × 55.1 cm) Image (c): 40 7/16 × 13 7/8 in. (102.7 × 35.3 cm) Overall with mounting (c): 75 1/16 × 19 3/4 in. (190.6 × 50.1 cm) Overall with knobs (c): 75 1/16 × 21 3/4 in. (190.6 × 55.3 cm) Image (d): 40 1/2 × 13 15/16 in. (102.8 × 35.4 cm) Overall with mounting (d): 75 3/8 × 19 11/16 in. (191.5 × 50 cm) Overall with knobs (d): 75 3/8 × 21 11/16 in. (191.5 × 55.1 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2015
Accession Number:
2015.300.190a–d
Not on view
These sensitively rendered ink paintings transcend conventional literati imagery of Chinese‑style seasonal landscapes to create an expression of a more individual, moody statement of the artist in nature. One may read the lone figure in each scroll as a representation of the artist himself presented in the mode of a Chinese sage; the artist did actually play the traverse flute, the instrument of the boatman in the autumn scene. All four of the scrolls in this set are integrated not only by connecting seasonal moods but also by a unifying elevated point of view. Baiitsu is best known for his meticulous and unfailingly elegant polychrome bird-and-flower paintings, perhaps learned while studying as a youth under the Shijō-school painter Chō Gesshō (1770–1832). This set of paintings reveals a relatively unstudied dimension of Baiitsu’s work.
Yamamoto Baiitsu (1783–1856), who is best known for his elegant polychrome paintings in the bird-and-flower genre, was born to a carver's family in Nagoya, a city between Edo and Kyoto. The painting teacher of young Baiitsu is believed to have been Chō Gesshō (1770–1832), a minor artist of the realist Shijō school. Yamamoto Rantei, a now almost forgotten Kano-school artist, might also have given Baiitsu instruction, as well as the use of his family name.[1] While Baiitsu was still in his teens, he met Nakabayashi Chikutō (1776–1853), a painter from his hometown, and in 1802 they left Nagoya together for Kyoto to pursue their studies. Always in search of new ideas, new models for painting, and new friends, Baiitsu traveled continually throughout the Kyoto-Osaka area, painting, composing poetry, and playing the flute-leading a life that followed the ideals of the Chinese literati. In about 1815, the sphere of his travels widened to include Edo, where he met many other like-minded literati. His peripatetic life continued until about 1854, when he returned to Nagoya. He remained there until his death two years later.

Each of these four hanging scrolls depicting the four seasons of the year is signed and impressed with a seal. The first one (Spring) gives the date as "the Year of the Dog," the first month of spring," which corresponds to January 1848. The last scroll (Winter) identifies the place where Baiitsu painted the set as the Studio of Jade Contemplation.

Each painting depicts the solitary figure of a scholar, except for Summer, in which two gentlemen and a servant are shown. All the men are engaged in quiet contemplation or in music-making. The flute player under the full autumn moon—indeed, any of the figures in these scrolls—may surely be understood as a self-portrait.

The scrolls are a virtuoso display of brush techniques. Dark, wet, and unusually short strokes are employed to convey the feel of lush vegetation in the warm spring and summer seasons, and dark inks combined with pale, soft washes fade into the shimmering, unpainted silk, evoking a vaporous mist. The Autumn scroll has a greater sense of open space, and the trees have shed their leaves. Deftly brushed reeds accent the otherwise muted scene. In Winter, broken strokes in light ink mark the distant hills, and traces of the dry brush cover the entire landscape. The barren, flat-topped peaks recall the landscape paintings of Chikutō. A scholar contemplates the frozen world.

The Burke scrolls represent Baiitsu, sixty-five years of age, at the pinnacle of his technical and expressive powers.

[Miyeko Murase 2000, Bridge of Dreams]

[1] On Baiitsu's life, sec Graham 1983, pp. 21–79.
Signature: Spring: Boshin Moshun utsusu Baiitsu Ryo
Summer: Baiitsu tsukuru
Autumn: Baiitsu egaku
Winter: Baiitsu Gyokuzen-shitsu ni oite tsukuru

Yamamoto Ryo (all 4 scrolls); Meikyo (winter)
Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation , New York (until 2015; donated to MMA)
New York. Brooklyn Museum. "Japanese Literati Painters: The Third Generation," June 15, 1977–August 14, 1977.

Orlando. Loch Haven Art Center. "Urban Beauties and Rural Charms," January 8, 1980–February 10, 1980.

Richmond. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "Jewel Rivers: Japanese Art from The Burke Collection.," October 25, 1993–January 2, 1994.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art. "Jewel Rivers: Japanese Art from The Burke Collection.," February 26, 1994–April 24, 1994.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Jewel Rivers: Japanese Art from The Burke Collection.," October 14, 1994–January 1, 1995.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Seasonal Pleasures in Japanese Art, Part II," May 1, 1996–September 8, 1996.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Japanese Art from The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," March 30, 2000–June 25, 2000.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celebrating the Arts of Japan: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 20, 2015–January 22, 2017.

Iizuka Beiu, ed. Nanshū ha (Southern School). 4 vols. Nihonga taisei (Survey of Japanese painting), 9–11. Tokyo: Tōhō Shoin. 1932, pls. 68–71.

Suzuki Susumu. “Yamamoto Baiitsu hitsu Shiki sansui zu” (“Landscape of Four Seasons,” by Yamamoto Baiitsu). Kobijutsu, no. 40 (March 1973): pp. 79–82.

Mason, Penelope. Japanese Literati Painters: The Third Generation. Exh. cat. Brooklyn: The Brooklyn Museum, 1977, pp. 25–27.

Graham, Patricia Jane. “Yamamoto Baiitsu no Chūgokuga kenkyū” (Yamamoto Baiitsu’s approach to the study of Chinese painting). Kobijutsu, no. 80 (October 1986): 62–75, fig. 18 ("Summer").

Murase, Miyeko. Jewel Rivers: Japanese Art from the Burke Collection. Exh. cat. Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Art, 1993, cat. no. 30.

Murase, Miyeko. Bridge of Dreams: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection of Japanese Art. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000, cat. no. 165.
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