Autumn Millet


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Autumn Millet

  1. 1. The Museum ofArt Metropolitan DECEMBER 1958 BULLET i: :-; I .i I :I U L.. i Ci I I .I >%, ?^i? n 1:rr The Metropolitan Museum of Art is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve, and extend access to The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin ®
  2. 2. ON THE COVER: Fourpanels from one of a pair of eight-panelscreens,attributedto Kano Sanraku (1559-1635). Pulitzer BequestA B O V E: Detail from the secondscreenof thepair
  3. 3. Autumn Millet by A L A N P R I E S T, Curator Far Eastern Art ofThe Kano family gave its name to a school of him. Of all the shoguns of Japan, Hideyoshi, whoJapanese painting that for almost two centuries came to power in 1582, was the most spectacular.was the largest and most influential of all the He was not of one of the great families but foughtschools. Through successive generations and his way up to the shogunate from stable boy. Inunder the sponsorship of the prevailing feudal matters of temperament and taste he has beenlords, painters who inherited this name by birth likened to Napoleon. Certainly he surroundedor adoption held a commanding position in himself with a blaze of splendor, which gave op-Japanese art. Assimilating the strong Chinese portunity to Eitoku and his adopted son Sanrakuinfluences that carried over from the works of (I559-I635) to decorate on a very grand scale,such noted earlier painters as the great Sesshu, an opportunity which they and their descend-and the peculiarly native qualities of the aristo- ants took. In Kyoto alone, Nijo castle with itscratic Tosa school, the Kanos developed what seemingly endless suites of state ceremonialhas been termed the most brilliant school of rooms (there was and is a second more livablesecular art in the world. palace enclosed within a second moat) and many The traditional founder of the Kano school is temples still exist as proof to the historian, as aMasanobu (I434-1530), chief court painter for cherished National Treasure, and as a constantthe shogun of his day. He, like Sesshu, admired pleasure to visitors whether Japanese or notthe Chinese painting of the Sung dynasty, espe- Japanese.cially the poetic landscapes done in monochrome. We get only the smallest idea of all this fromThe most important of Masanobus sons, Mo- a pair of screens or sliding doors, which is thetonobu (1476-1559), married a daughter of Tosa most we can see of the style in Western museums.Mitsunobu (about 143o-about 152 ), the Em- From these we must imagine suites of rooms withperors chief court painter of the day. The as many as twenty or more screens or panels infamilies married and so in their way did the two each room. In Nijo castle these rooms are twoschools of painting. The aristocratic subject stories high with screens, sometimes arranged inmatter, the gold and the color of the Tosa school two tiers, on a much larger scale than those withbecame part of the Kano style. Thus neatly does which we are familiar. The state reception roomsErnest Fenollosa, in Epochs of Chineseand Japanese of Nijo castle follow one upon the other, allArt, explain the beginning of Kano painting. After the death of Motonobu in I559 hissecond son, Kano Shoyei (1519-I592), becamethe head of the Kano painters and was employed Contents DECEMBER 1958by the great military commander Nobunaga(1534-I582), who made the city of Kyoto his Autumn Millet IOIheadquarters in I 568 and began the great walled By Alan Priestand moated castle still known as Nijo castle. The Kano school as we usually think of it was The Emperors Cabinet Io8a school of gorgeous palace and temple painting. By Clare EamesThe most prominent artist of this brilliant phasewas Kano Eitoku (I543-I590), who was Hide- The First Victorian Photographer II3yoshis chief court painter and rose to fame with By A. Hyatt Mayor 101
  4. 4. painters supplied screens and paintings for the households of the rich--many, as we can see as examples emerge from private collections. The Museum has lately acquired two small screens attributed to and bearing the seals of Kano San- raku, the adopted son of and successor to Eitoku. The subject of these screens is autumn millet. These screens were not painted as part of a palace or temple decoration. Until they came to the Metropolitan they had always been in private collections. Even in modern times many Japa- nese do not care for publicity and its many dangers. The screens do appear in that maga- zine of art, the Kokka, which in itself was an in- Quailfeeding in an autumnfield novation; when it was issued in i889 it was the first magazine of art to be published in thewith gold backgrounds emphasizing particular Orient. They appear in the Kokka of Octoberthemes-huge stark pine trees, bamboos, willows, 1893 with a murky illustration and a laudatorypaeonies (surely one prefers the spelling paeony note. Then they were the property of Baronto peony for these noble flowers), egrets, pheas- Kuki; now, fortunately, they are ours.ants and lesser birds, tigers (and surely if one They are small in size and are in a very differ-speaks of a pride of lions one should speak of ent mood from the typical palace and templean ecstasy of tigers). So it goes on. paintings of their day. It is almost as if the The Imperial Household guide as he leads painter had said to himself, "I am tired of beingfrom room to room says merely that they are by grand. I will do a little thing to please myself forthe "Kano painter" and does not like it if some once." There is, however, one room in the Ten-pert tourist asks "Which Kano?" My sympathies kyu-in, which is one of the complex of templesare with the guide. In these accredited palace known as Myoshinji, which is painted in muchand temple works the Kanos are more difficult the same mood. The room in the Tenkyu-in isto distinguish than the Giotteschi, and it is obvi- often referred to by Western visitors as theous that a great many competent studio workers Morning Glory room. It is one of a series ofhelped carry out the master painters design. rooms attributed to Sanraku. The other roomsWhile it is true that the Kano painters worked are painted with pine trees, bamboos, and tigersalso in monochrome and many individually in the grand manner. The Morning Glory roompainted in the tradition of Sesshu and China, we is painted lightly. When you come on it after athink of them, and rightly, as the great Japanese day of tigers and pine trees you come upon aschool of public decorative painting. presentation of early morning in which the chief Aside from palace and temple works the Kano thing is sky-blue morning glories. To be sure, the morning glories are supplemented with a few other garden flowers, with birds and bits of fence.The Metropolitan Museum of Art BULLETIN And in mood the Metropolitan screens areVOLUME XVII, NUMBER 4, DECEMBER 1958 like it. The one speaks of early morning, the other of late afternoon. Both speak of a perfectPublished monthly from October to June and quarterly from moment of the day and both speak of littleJuly to September. Copyright 1958 by The Metropolitan Mu-seum of Art, Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street, New York 28, N. Y. things. Both speak of the country and smallRe-entered as second-class matter November 17, 1942, at the farms as against the splendor of state gardens.Post Office at New York, N. Y., under the Act of August 24, Both the Morning Glory room and the Metro- I912. Subscriptions $5.00 a year. Single copies fifty cents. Sentfree to Museum Members. Four weeks notice required for politan screens are attributed to the same painter.change of address. Editor: Marshall B. Davidson. They are in the same mood. A contemporary102
  5. 5. authority on the Kano school ascribes the Morn- now ascribed to an unknown master of the greating Glory room to Sansetsu, the son of Sanraku. school of decoration in which Sotatsu, Koyetsu, It is true that many paintings generally ascribed and Korin were leading figures. This pair of to Sansetsu are lighter in treatment than those screens (which has no specific name) is one ofascribed to Sanraku. By father or son, the millet the most beautiful of all. Against a subduedscreens have much in common with the paintings background a stream moves and curves withof the Morning Glory room. considerable force, continuing from one panel to The Kokka refers to them as the "autumn another and from one screen to the other. The millet" screens. We are free to accept that title trees and shrubs selected for these particularor to give them another, such as "quail and mil- screens are modest ones, often four seasons willlet." Whichever we choose, the two screens to- blaze with prunus against snow, with paeony,gether are a small pictorial poem of autumn. with lotus, with chrysanthemum; but in this The painters of the Far East, especially the example have been chosen, as from a stream inpainters of Japan, pay great attention to the the countryside, white peach flowers, pine trees,seasons-more, surely, than do the painters of pear blossoms, and iris.the West. It is true that there are many excellent It is quite possible that for ordinary living therepresentations of the four seasons in Western Japanese prefer screens of this nature, screenspainting, and even of the twelve months, notably without people or stories which might well dis-in the Tres Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry. tract their guests, and that they use the courtBut in the seasonal pictures of the West, summer and historical scenes for more formal occasions.and winter, however excellently depicted, are We are told at long length of the care and thoughtusually a background for the activities of human that go into every object used in the tea cere-beings who appear appropriately clad according mony, and there is every indication that the sameto the season. careful planning goes into any party at all. The Japanese, to be sure, can produce scenes While it is very common to find all four sea-of the twelve months in which the human figures sons together on a pair of screens, the Japaneseare the important thing, but much more often often devote a pair of screens to one particularthey paint the seasons with human beings left season, and more than that to a selected phaseout. There are very many pairs of screens which of the season. That is what the painter has doneby means of trees and flowers alone indicate the in our two small screens that bear the seal offour seasons. The Metropolitan has, for instance, Sanraku. They are done in subdued colors anda pair of screens once attributed to Koyetsu and gold on paper. One of a pair of Japanese screens representingthe four seasons. Sotatsu-Korin School, xvii-xviii century. Height 48 inches. Rogers Fund, I915 103
  6. 6. One of thepair of screensknownas "autumnmillet," attributedto Kano Sanraku (I559-1635). Height 38 4 inches. The screens are unusual in size. It is true that, from it. One kind of plant predominates, thelike paintings, Japanese screens vary a great deal useful and nutritious millet. The grain is fullyin size, from the large panels of Nijo castle to the ripened, with its rich depending heads carefullysmall twofold screens used for the tea ceremony delineated, its stalks and twisted leaves dis-and to miniature dolls screens; but the greater played. The soft browns of the millet are lightenednumber of screens average some six feet in height with a few sprays of single-petaled wild aster andand are of six panels which add up to about a bit of weed bursting into a tiny candelabra ofthirteen feet in width. Our screens are only 38 4 gossamer seed. The weed, H. L. Li of the Morrisinches high and have eight, not six, panels. The Arboretum in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania tellssix center panels of each screen measure I7 2 me, may be a species of the genus Senecio, com-inches in width. It is their height rather than monly called ragwort.their width that is unusual. However the choice If one walks in the countryside in Japan inof this size was arrived at, the result is very agree- October one cannot fail to be attracted by theable. The measurements are worth meticulous small farms and the grains and the very fewrecording because in them is hidden some clue weeds that grow among them. There is also theto a harmony of proportion that pleases the wild life that comes to feed upon them. In thishuman eye. screen the wild life is restricted to small birds, They are autumn screens. Although no build- mostly of the finch and sparrow family. It ising appears in them it is clear that they are very better not to be too dogmatic about the particu-close to human habitation, part of a humble lar species of most of these birds. We can recog-farm, because there are bits of bamboo fence and nize some of them. The quail feeding on thea light rope with scarecrow rattles depending ground are easy to identify. The long-tailed104
  7. 7. !Pulitzer Bequest, 1957birds proceeding to the feast are imaginary andno amount of comparison with the long-tailedflycatchers of Eastern embroideries will get theminto any scientific bird book. Let us not be tooprecise about this merry flight of little birds. It Detailfrom the screenillustrated aboveis clear that they should be seed eaters, thesparrows and the finches. In this matter I haveasked for comment from Dillon Ripley of thePeabody Museum of Natural History at YaleUniversity. He gives me possibilities: a treesparrow, a pine bunting. And on others he re-marks, quite rightly, that he is "defeated." Sanraku was a good observer. He knew whatmillet was and set it down meticulously; milletwas his subject. He offset the millet with a whiteflower, some sort of aster which he was notnearly so careful about. He added a few stalksof a ragwort gone to seed. This he did as onemight make and balance a flower arrangement,with no thought of botany in his mind. Millet, asters, ragwort will stay still for apainter. Birds will not. To most human beings, 105
  8. 8. The secondof the "autumn millet" screens.Height 38 4 inches. Pulitzer Bequest, I957 Detailsfrom the screenillustrated on pages 104 and I05106
  9. 9. wherever they live, birds are no more than a are the bits of fence and the rattles intended tofrisk of wings. The painter of these screens was frighten birds away. Westerners often smile whenneither a professional botanist nor a professional they see a real crow seated upon the dummyornithologist. He was aware of wings. The quail, made to scare it. Sanraku has made the sameground birds, stayed still long enough for him to point here, with his finches lighting at will rightdraw quite accurately. Finches, sparrows, and beside the rattles. These rattles are pretty things.buntings flew in and out. He saw beaks and Against a small wooden plaque bits of bamboowings and caught what he could of them. What are hung, fashioned hopefully like firecrackers.he caught with both growing things and winged The background has been treated in two ways,things was an enchanting moment of autumn. mottled in the upper part to suggest the golden It is just a thing to enjoy. Here is millet, here haze of autumn, solid in the foreground to catchare thieving birds. The traces of human beings the light. 107
  10. 10. Avk -,o t t ~~~~4 (4CN .4 f I1 *, ,CrL ; i t- s v s Nt -- ~~~~ , 1I Ir. ^Lt Yrl~- wI .I Ds .-