Baltimore—Autumn in Japan, much like autumn in Baltimore, is a time of abundance and a time for reflection. The Walters Art Museum will present the natural world in its most vibrant hues with Autumn Colors: Japanese Paintings of the Edo Period on view Sept. 27– Nov. 30. These paintings by six Japanese artists recall sites and subjects traditionally and poetically linked with fall, such as the red maple leaves of Mount Takao, withered grasses bending under a harvest moon and deer gathered in an autumn forest. The show includes six hanging scrolls and four large sliding door panels created during the Edo Period (1603-1867). Japan’s borders were mostly closed to foreign travel and trade at this time and its artists focused their attentions inward to discover and develop the uniquely Japanese subjects, styles and themes recognized today. These paintings represent only a small selection from the collection of Japanese paintings amassed over the past few decades by Betsy and Robert Feinberg and loaned to the Walters.
Reflecting on the museum’s long relationship with the Feinbergs, Walters Director Gary Vikan notes, “The Walters is extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to share with the public the exhilarating beauty of these works, which I have had the privilege of enjoying with Betsy and Bob in their home.”
Each artist represented in this show captures an aspect of the autumn world that is at once an observation of nature as well as a symbol of what fall had come to represent within the 19th-century Japanese imagination. Similar to the way in which traditional Japanese haiku poetry uses just a few words to express a rich tapestry of ideas, these images were drawn from the artists’ experiences of seeing the autumn world, but convey something far more complex and rich with symbolic meaning. The red leaves of the Japanese maple are present in several of these works, as are locations famed for their beauty during this season.
“In selecting these paintings, I have tried to include subjects we can easily understand as symbols of autumn,” said Robert Mintz, assistant curator for Asian art. “For the Japanese painters and patrons alike, these images held both the familiar associations we all share and a deeper set of allusions to an almost spiritual significance the Japanese people ascribed to the changing of the seasons.”
About the Exhibition
Tani Buncho’s grand painting of withering grasses under the harvest moon presents a scene we immediately recognize as rich with the spirit of the season. In the corner he has inscribed a brief dedication that reads: On the pleasant night of the 8th month’s full moon, I visited the Sumida River. The brilliant light was like the mid-day sun. The authentic view must be just like this. Seven days later, I painted this as a memento for Mr. Daidoji. 1817, Buncho. He painted an image that both captures what he saw on that moonlit night and embraces an imagined, idyllic scene rich with the feel of autumn. Then, he made it a gift to a dear friend so that he could share this vision of the season.
Each work in this exhibition, including paintings by Maruyama Okyo, Kono Bairei, Ito Jakuchu, Mori Tetsuzan and Kishi Gantai, will offer a distinct view of the autumn world. Deer lounge under red maples, a cockatiel perches among crimson leaves and chrysanthemums seem to bow their golden heads to mark the end of the growing season.
The Walters Art Museum
The Walters Art Museum is located in Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon Cultural District at North Charles and Centre streets. Its permanent collection includes ancient art, medieval art and manuscripts, decorative objects, Asian art, and Old Master and 19th-century paintings. Peabody Court is the official hotel of the Walters Art Museum. For hotel reservations, call 1-800-292-5500.