Seasonal motifs are one the significant characteristics of the Rimpa school; many folding screens by the school’s artists are arranged along an annual composition of motifs symbolizing Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Recurring in the poetry, literature, and the visual arts of Japan, this well-known structure has been commonly linked to profound sensitivity to Nature and to the agricultural heritage of the Japanese state.
My paper examines the metamorphosis of the seasonal arrangement in painting, and suggests that it fulfilled several functions in balancing the viewer within the space of display. The seasonally-adorned screens secured the space of display as harmonious and auspicious vis-à-vis the world, while balancing the position of the viewer within the idealized concept of four-directions and five phases. During the Edo period, the concept of the four seasons evolved to signify a balanced society in a Neo-Confucian taste. I thus suggest that the popularity of the Rimpa works during the later Edo-period to the twentieth century is linked to the ideological messages conveyed by their seasonal composition.