Flowers of Autumn at Water’s Edge
By Keibun Matsumura (1779-1843)
Edo Period, 18th-19th century
Color on silk
51 x 127 cm
© The Field Museum
In the Japanese art tradition, different plants represent different seasons. This painting creates an evocative fall ambience through its delicate depiction of a group of fall plants. The long-stemmed pampas grass elegantly arches over against a full autumn moon, under which white chrysanthemums, smaller blue Chinese balloon flowers, and the eye-catching pink hibiscus are gently dangling at water’s edge. The hibiscus blossoms are carefully drawn in outline. The finely gradated and blended pink and white color on the petals successfully defines the complexity of the petals. At the bottom, insects crawl on the lower branches, and rocks stand in the water. The four basic elements of Chinese bird-and-flower painting – insects, rocks, flowers and grasses–are beautifully coordinated and composed into a classical depiction of autumn.
Keibun is regarded as one of the best representatives of the Shijo school, especially known for his kachoga, bird-and-flower paintings, which he often drew directly from nature. He studied painting with his older brother Goshun (1752-1811), a founder of the Shijo school who combined the realism of the Maruyama school with the idealism of Nanga painting, and with Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795), the founder of the Maruyama school. (Commentary by Juan Peng)