Autumn Grasses

Grasses are misty

The waters silent

A tranquil evening.

Buson 1716-1783

Many autumns ago, our young family moved to Tokyo.  The cultural depth and richness was overwhelming, and not less so for the exacting seasonality of it.  Autumn was autumn, no strawberries or lilies.  October brought moon viewing, tsuki-mi, with its attendant special meal, featuring chestnuts, squash or sweet potato.

I was reminded of this last month when I had the good fortune to view the Garden Club of America’s unique collection of books on ikebana.  Above is a seasonal arrangement painted in the 1930’s.

The calligraphic lines of grasses are captured on scrolls, screens, lacquer, and ceramics like this 19C dish, one of an exquisite set of five, which I use for appetizers or pieces of fruit.

Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1828) is the star of the current exhibit (above) at the Japan Society in New York. Hoitsu painted the first image above of “Moon with Autumn flowers”.  Concurrently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Designing Nature: The Rimpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art” forms the other half of what Holland Cotter in the New York Times describes as “two shimmering fall exhibitions”.

Rimpa style was rather like the Arts & Crafts movement in the west, it influenced all aspects of design.  My friend Amy Katoh, the doyenne of folk craft in Japan, in her 1993 book, “Japan Country Living: Spirit Tradition Style” (Tuttle), captures this aesthetic brilliantly in the image above.  The two-paneled screen with its dark moon and grasses, the contrast of the patterned basket with the just-gathered grasses and the scattered grasses on the polished alcove floor create autumnal elegance.

This bookstand from the Tokyo National Museum appeared in The Great Japan Exhibition at the Royal Academy in London.  Designed to be used while kneeling on tatami, it isn’t more than  23 inches high and glows with chrysanthemums and waving grasses.  Nowadays would a Kindle be placed on this exquisite stand?







About Susan

Susan Detjens is a former landscape painter, she lectures, demonstrates and runs workshops on floral design for museums, horticultural organizations and garden clubs across the US.
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3 Responses to Autumn Grasses

  1. marianne pollak says:

    Oh, Susan, while passing Horticulture at the Zone II meeting yesterday, Margy Greville and I were sharing stories of living in Japan; and Edward and I viewed the Hoitsu show on Saturday. The screens are just so beautiful. Thank you for this lovely and nostalgic reminder.

  2. Alexandra says:

    I’m not sure how many different ways I can find to say I enjoy the posts. But I do! Wonderful stuff.

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