Kanō school, Birds and Flowers of Autumn and Winter, 4 fusuma (sliding door panel) paintings

From Tanzan shrine, Tōnomine, Nara Prefecture, Japan
Edo period, early 17th century AD

Japanese rooms are traditionally divided by fusuma, paper-covered wooden lattice doors, which were often decorated with paintings. This set depict autumn and winter scenes, with geese and plovers in flight or at the water's edge, ducks on the water, and camellias, chlorantha, cotton roses, bamboo grass, and rushes. The leaves of the maple tree to the left are turning red to indicate autumn, and the snow-laden cypress tree suggests winter. It is likely that originally there were additional doors in the sequence depicting spring and summer.

Gold paint and gold leaf are used to create hazy, cloud-like formations which fill the scenery and, together with the vibrant colours, impart a wonderful lustre to the work. The trees to the left anchor the composition, which opens out to the right into the expanse of water. This asymmetrical balance was used frequently in large-scale bird-and-flower paintings.

The paintings come originally from the Tanzan Shrine (in Nara Prefecture), and it is thought they were commissioned as part of the restoration of the shrine from 1617 to 1619. On the other side of the same doors were paintings now in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum showing figures engaged in the 'Four Elegant Pastimes' (Kin-ki-sho-ga). Fusuma were rarely signed, but these panels have been attributed to Kanō Takanobu (1571-1618), eldest son of the famous Kanō Eitoku (1543-90), or a leading pupil of his atelier. Takanobu was father of three important Kanō painters, the highly successful Tan'yū (1602-74), Naonobu (1607-50) and Yasunobu (1613-85).

The paintings have recently undergone a thorough process of repair and conservation in The British Museum's Hirayama Studio, and have been remounted onto new lattices.

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Kanō school, Birds and Flowers of Autumn and Winter, 4 fusuma (sliding door panel) paintings

No. 1 (far left)

  • No. 2 (centre left)

    No. 2 (centre left)

  • No. 3 (centre right)

    No. 3 (centre right)

  • No. 4 (far right)

    No. 4 (far right)


More information


L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992)


Height: 1735.000 mm (each approx.)
Width: 1410.000 mm (each approx.)

Museum number

Asia JA JP ADD129-132 (1937.10-9.01-04)


Gift of the National Art Collections Fund


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