Rice Cultivation through the Four Seasons

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Rice Cultivation through the Four Seasons

Alternate Title: Shiki kōsaku zu byōbu

Japan, circa 1700-1725
Paintings; screens
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color and gold on paper
a-b) Image: 54 1/8 × 142 1/2 in. (137.48 × 361.95 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by Yuki and Alex Bouzari, Lenore and Richard Wayne, Leslie Prince Salzman, Maria and Bill Bell, Carolyn and Bill Powers, Jack B. Corwin, Bill and Dee Grinnell, the Kayne Foundation, Ric and Suzanne Kayne, Jerry D. Kayne, and Gregory and Mechas Grinnell through the 2006 Collectors Committee (M.2006.105.1-.2)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

This pair of 300 year-old screens illustrates the four seasons....
This pair of 300 year-old screens illustrates the four seasons. Festive scenes of seasonal pleasures such as cherry-blossom and autumn-maple viewing parties are interspersed with the essential stages of rice growing: tilling the rice paddy, transplanting the seedlings, harvesting, and threshing the rice to separate grain from chaff. Clouds and bands of mist, formed by squares of gold leaf, weave through the landscape, while pigments made from semi-precious stones add color to the screens. Powdered malachite lends a vivid green to the hillsides and riverbanks, while blue from powdered azurite is seen in some of the costumes. Aside from their beauty, the screens have an underlying philosophical message. In Confucian thought, the farming or cultivation of rice is a metaphor for the cultivation of the mind and spirit. In addition to being room dividers and decorative landscapes, these screens served as reminders to their upper-class owners of the importance of lifelong education and the cultivation of the mind and spirit through reading and writing literature and poetry, the practice of painting and calligraphy, and the playing of music. Another subtext to these screens is the nobility of the work of rice growers, whose toil provided sustenance for all levels of society. In the social structure of the Edo period (1615-1868), there were four classes: samurai, farmers, artisans and merchants. Although merchants were the wealthiest group in society when these screens were created, they were placed at the bottom of the social order. Farm work was to be venerated as an ideal worthy of emulation. Depictions of rice cultivation are not uncommon in Japanese art; LACMA's collection includes a lacquer Stationery Box and a textile, Gift Cover (Fukusa) with Agricultural Scenes of the Four Seasons