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Flowers of the four seasons

17th century


Rinpa school



The subject of 'Flowers of the Four Seasons' is a popular one in Japan where there has always been - in literature, poetry and painting - a great sensitivity to the changing of the seasons. In these screens, beautifully realised in the rich colours typical of the decorative Rinpa style, the composition is read from right to left. The groupings of flowers are arranged vertically across the panels, each group of a different density, scale and colour in a manner reminiscent of the rhythms of good cursive calligraphy. The first grouping of flowers on the extreme right is a cluster containing the pine, bamboo, plum blossom and cherry blossom known as the "Three Friends" and symbolising strength and integrity. The centre of the right screen is dominated by peonies, here a symbol of spring and a perfect foil to the chrysanthemums which are the central focus of the left screen. Chrysanthemums are the flowers of autumn and they too, like the plum blossom, are redolent with poetic associations. The variety of flowers represent the twelve months, as well as the four seasons. Included on the screens are bush clover ('hagi'), one of the seven flowers of autumn, begonia, wisteria and many others. The final panel - the left of the left screen - contains narcissus. Since it blooms in the bitter cold of the New Year season, the narcissus shares with the plum blossom the virtues of purity and perseverance. Placing it last on the screens had brought the viewer full circle, reiterating the continuity of the seasons. The Oriental concept of time is evident - time is cyclical not linear, and the screens are an affirmation of harmony and order within nature.

'Asian Art', AGNSW Collections, 1994, pg. 216-217.


Place where the work was made



17th century

Media category


Materials used

pair of six-panel screens; ink, colour and sprinkled gold on paper


a - right screen - plums, wisteria and peony; 154.5 x 348 cm; image

a - right screen - plums, wisteria and peony; 170 x 364.4 cm; screen

b - left screen - red maple tree and chrysanthemums; 154.5 x 348 cm; image

b - left screen - red maple tree and chrysanthemums; 170 x 364.4 cm; screen

Signature & date

Signed l.l.,in Japanese ink "[artist's seal]". Not dated [left screen].
Signed l.r., in Japanese ink "[artist's seal]". Not dated [right screen].


Purchased 1989

Accession number


Artist information

Rinpa school

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 4 publications


Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The aesthetic of transience', Sydney, 2003, 202, 203 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, AGNSW Collections, 'Asian Art - India, South-East Asia, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan', pg. 173-228, Sydney, 1994, 216, 217 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies and Edmund Capon, Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Japanese Painting', pg. 53-69, Sydney, 1990, 58 (colour illus.).

Khanh Trinh (Editor), Kamisaka Sekka: dawn of modern Japanese design, Sydney, 2012, 40-41 (colour illus.). 6