《Landscape of the Four Seasons》
Muromachi period, 15th century Sumi and light color on silk
Looking at the trees in the foreground, we see that Sesshu has given them pink flowers in spring, green leaves in summer, and colorful leaves in fall, with white snow falling on leaves on the ground in winter. Having noted the changing seasons, we turn our attention to mountains in the center and a man of lofty character giving himself up to nature. That is the world that Sesshu sought to express in landscape paintings. While these paintings lack signature or seal, they have long been regarded as by Sesshu. Certificates of authenticity by Kano Tan’yu and Kano Yasunobu had been handed down with them. Legend has it that Sesshu once drew a picture of a mouse with his own tears. Legend aside, we know that he came to Kyoto in his childhood, entering Tofukuji temple, then moved to Shokokuji, where he trained in Zen with Shurin Shuto and in painting with Shubun. In about 1454, he moved to Yamaguchi, under the patronage of the Ouchi clan of Suo, and, in 1467, was able to go to Ming-dynasty China with a trading mission. While serving as its recorder, Sesshu directly encountered the paintings, artists, and nature of China. He may have painted these works after experiencing China, but since the existence in Japan of Chinese paintings that he is thought to have used as models and works of a similar nature have been discovered, it is also conceivable that he painted these prior to his travels in China.