Seasonal change and depictions of the natural world have formed a core in the repertoire of Japanese artists throughout the ages. The exhibition Through the Seasons: Japanese Art in Nature at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
brings together screens and scrolls from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries and displays them with contemporary ceramics, each work emphasizing the inspirational role of nature in Japanese art. Drawn from both public institutions and private collections, many of these works have never before been exhibited. Through the Seasons will be on view in Stone Hill Centers galleries June 7 through October 18.
For centuries, the arts of Japan have been inextricably linked with nature, whether through traditional themes of seasonal change or through objects whose shape, materials, or decorative elements evoke natural motifs. The screens and scroll paintings included in Through the Seasons exemplify Edo and Meiji period aesthetics; the ceramics indicate the continuation of traditional styles as well as the employment of natural elements in new ways.
A naturalistic painting approach is exemplified by Mori Sosens Deer in Autumn Landscape (18th century, Collection of Richard Fishbein and Estelle Bender) in which a lone deer stands in the moonlight. Suzuki Kiitsu developed a unique style using elegant compositions and bright colors while incorporating a naturalistic approach. His screen Morning Glories (early 19th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) uses a simple palette against a luminous gold background; the flowers are glorified by the artist for their ephemeral beauty.
The contemporary ceramics featured in the exhibition include works by artists who have embraced the seasonal aesthetic with traditional techniques, as well as those who use innovative approaches to evoke natural motifs and forms. The works demonstrate a strong connection with nature, whether through decorative motifs or shape, such as Shell (before 1997, Collection of Betsy and Robert Feinberg) by Koike Shoko, or the evocative Wind Vase (c. 1978, The Rubin - Ladd Foundation) by Okada Kenzo. Over a dozen artists will be represented in the exhibition, including Miyashita Zenji, Kaneshige Kosuke, Fukami Sueharu, and Matsui Kosei.
Through the Seasons: Japanese Art in Nature was organized by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and is supported by the Yomiuri Shimbun. Miyeko Murase, former Consultant for Japanese Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and professor emerita at Columbia University, is curator. A handsome small-format catalogue, which includes color plates of each of the works, will accompany this exhibition. The exhibition catalogue is supported by Parnassus Foundation, courtesy of Jane and Raphael Bernstein. Special thanks to the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation.
Designed by Pritzker Prizewinning architect Tadao Ando, with landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand Associates, Stone Hill Center opened in 2008 to critical acclaim. The building takes advantage of the Clarks dramatic natural setting on 140 acres. Stone Hill Center houses intimately scaled galleries, a meeting and studio art classroom, an outdoor café, and the Williamstown Art Conservation Center.