19th Century Japanese Rinpa Screen, Flowers of the Four Seasons by Suzuki Kiitsu.



Suzuki Kiitsu (1796-1858)

Flowers of the Four Seasons

Six-panel Japanese Screen. Ink, pigment and gofun on paper.

Late Edo Period

Inscription: Seisei Kiitsu 

Upper Seal: Shuku Rin Sai

Lower Seal: Kiitsu

Dimensions: H. 157 cm x W. 355 cm (62’’ x 140’’)

Price: USD 28,000

This composition of flowers and trees represents a seasonal progression from spring to winter. Beautifully realized in the rich colors and tarashikomi technique typical of the decorative Rinpa style, the composition is read from right to left. The scene follows a loose progression from early spring with flowering quince, plum and rapeseed, to summer with iris and peony, followed by autumn with chrysanthemums and maple, and winter with narcissus. Nature in all its seasonal variations has long been an integral part of Japanese culture. Flowers, each blooming in its season, are especially loved, both for their beauty and as motifs symbolizing the seasons in art and poetry. The Japanese Rinpa school of art represents the fullest expression of nature painting in Japan. During the Edo period, Rinpa school artists made the flowering plants and trees of the seasons their signature subject. 

Suzuki Kiitsu is regarded as the most talented of the students trained by Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1828), who revived the Rinpa style in Edo (modern Tokyo). Kiitsu’s style carried on the Rinpa tradition of lavish beauty while adding vivid color contrasts and a rich design sense. Although Kiitsu emulated his teacher’s style, later in life he sought a more modern feel in his work, often employing a vibrant palette of pinks, purples, reds and incandescent blues that had never been seen before, even in the colorful Rinpa tradition. Kiitsu came to be hailed as an unparalleled master of the brush. His superb artistry captured the attention of Ernest Fenollosa, Charles Lang Freer, and other prominent aficionados of Japanese art who visited the country during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Thanks to their patronage, many of Kiitsu’s works were exhibited at museums outside Japan, and Kiitsu became recognised in American art circles as a leading Rinpa painter. Kiitsu trained his own son Suzuki Shuitsu and many other pupils, encouraging them to hand down the Rinpa style that continues to the present. Indeed, Kiitsu played a spectacular role as a champion for Edo Rinpa. Other prominent painters from the Nihonga (modern Japanese style painting) movement of the early 20th century were influenced by his works. The groundbreaking 2016 exhibition “Suzuki Kiitsu: Standard-Bearer of the Edo Rimpa School” brought together over 200 works by the artist and those in his immediate circle. Its scale and breadth was unrivaled by earlier exhibitions both inside and outside Japan. 

The screen has recently been remounted in Kyoto utilizing traditional techniques and craftsmen.