Shiki: The Four Seasons in Japanese Art"

Opens at Descanso Gardens


February 2, 2023

In California, the seasons are subtle. So subtle, in fact, that some claim there are none at all. Just as subtle, and equally beautiful, are the exquisite designs of the seasons in Japanese art. Over centuries, a rich literary and visual vocabulary representing the seasons evolved from the aesthetic sensibilities of the Japanese people. SHIKI: The Four Seasons in Japanese Art, a new exhibition at the Sturt Haaga Gallery brings this beauty and harmony to Descanso Gardens.

The aesthetic values of Japan reach beyond philosophical ideas about art and beauty, they are embraced as a way of life, centered around the concept of living in harmony with nature. As a result, the seasonal motifs found their way into everyday life, embellishing clothing, accessories, and other objects used on a daily basis.

This exhibition from the Scripps College collection in Claremont, features common seasonal motifs, ranging from a bowl with wisteria blossoms gracing the interior to maple leaves embellishing a kimono. Natural elements like these are frequently stylized to heighten the ornamental effect when used as decorative motifs. This modest, refined simplicity is regarded as the highest form of beauty.

The four seasons have also played a central role in traditional Japanese poetry. Waka is a form of poetry that was practiced by members of the Imperial Court around the 7th century AD. In the 17th century, the shortest poem of all was created – the more universally known haiku, comprised of three lines of 5-7-5 syllables. "In all of these, natural and seasonal imagery have reigned supreme, imbuing these short verses with not only the beauty of nature but also the mood and sensibilities long associated with the natural realm," states curator Meher McArthur. SHIKI will present poetry alongside artifacts and artwork illustrating the importance of nature in the everyday lives of the Japanese.

From February 18 – May 21, 2023.


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