Autumn and Winter Landscapes


Autumn and Winter Landscapes

Paintings / Muromachi

By Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506?)

Muromachi period, late 15th–early 16th century

Ink on paper

本紙 各縦47.7 横30.2


National Treasure

This masterpiece of landscape painting was drawn by Sesshu Toyo, a Zen priest and painter active during the Muromachi period, which started at the end of 14th century and continued through to the latter half of the 16th century. It was originally handed down through Manshu-in temple in Kyoto. Sesshu studied the painting styles of Shubun, Josetsu and several other Japanese masters. He also travelled to Ming dynasty China to study various contemporary modes of painting there. As a result, he developed a style imbued with a unique sense of composition and powerful brush strokes. His works had a major influence on Japanese landscape painting.

The Autumn Landscape painting shows a path following a river up the scroll. In the distance we see a tall building. The motifs gather toward the bottom half of the painting, with the space in the upper section devoted to the expansive autumn sky. The center of the Winter Landscape, meanwhile, is dominated by a sheer cliff. The buildings seem quite small by comparison and this conveys a sense of the harsh desolation of winter.

In both paintings, you can observe how the landscape gradually grows more distant as you follow the motifs up the scrolls. Sesshu has clearly delineated the positional relationships of each motifs. The paintings exude a cerebral sense of structure not observed in Sesshu’s earlier landscape works. Please enjoy your travel through the deep, expansive worlds contained in these small hanging scrolls.

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