Freer Gallery of Art
Jefferson Drive and 12th St., SW
Japanese landscape paintings on folding screens had religious and political purpose as early as the eleventh century. Surrogates for the land, these works were employed in rituals to secure the realm’s prosperity.
Throughout ensuing centuries, “place” remained a favored theme for screen paintings. Artists depicted specific sites with historical or traditional significance. Classical poetry, often deeply linked to particular locations, also provided subject matter.
While some artists continued to depict identifiable locales, more generic depictions of place became prevalent in the seventeenth century. Vast new architecture required interior design schemes featuring sizeable screens and sliding-door panels. These landscapes often evoked general settings rather than individual locations. Their thematic ambiguity invited reflection, reverie, and an openness to varied interpretations that mimicked responses to poetry.
On view during spring and summer, this gallery’s selection of snow-themed paintings suggests one way that these works may have been used: to create an ambience of heat-deflecting cool.