Current Exhibit


An Exhibition of Deciduous Bonsai

September 28-February 23 , 2019


Curator Bob Hilvers’ Walking Lecture Tour 11am, Sunday, September 29


The arrival of each new season is acknowledged and celebrated in the Japanese culture. This sensitivity to seasonal change is an important part of Shinto, Japan’s native belief system, which has focused on the cycles of the earth. Similarly, seasonal references are found everywhere in the Japanese literary and visual arts. A distinctive Japanese artistic convention is to depict a single environment transitioning from spring to summer to autumn to winter in one work. In this way, Japanese painters and poets expressed not only their fondness for this natural cycle but also captured an awareness of the inevitability of change, a fundamental Buddhist concept.


Bamboo in Four Seasons from Seasonal Imagery in Japanese Art

This tradition expresses the confluence of Shinto and Buddhism in the use of seasonal references. Shiro Nakagawa was acknowledging this tradition when he suggested the four seasons concept to Paul Saito, Shinzen’s original landscape architect. He was inspired by the 15th century Japanese artist, Sesshū Tōyō, famous or his 50 foot long hand scroll taking the viewer on a journey   through  the  four seasons.

Our Four Seasons exhibition opening September 28 featuring deciduous bonsai will begin with the display of the last of the green foliage of summer. Once the weather cools and the days shorten in the fall, we can enjoy the gorgeous color display of a handful of deciduous tree species. Some of these trees are selected for bonsai simply because of their spectacular fall colors. The gingko, for example, will show us intense yellow-gold autumn foliage. The bald cypress can present gold and orange foliage. We may see bright yellow hornbeams or the vibrant red of the Japanese maple. After the fall color display has passed, bonsai show us another image entirely: the Winter Silhouette. When deciduous bonsai have shed all their leaves, we see the artistic skill that formed the structure of the tree. Only then can we fully appreciate the angularity and refinement of the branch structure. This is like the study of architecture or anatomy. Some bonsai exhibits are exclusively devoted to showing the trees in their Winter Silhouette, particularly for the appreciation of the patience and skill required to develop a beautiful “skeleton.”


Irene Tamura’s Japanese Maple forest through four seasons.


Fall color in the bald cypress, gingko and Japanese maple

This exhibition will also feature winter blooming bonsai including camellia and Ume (flowering apricot). At the end of the exhibition, the final seasonal image occurs when the bright green or red leaf buds of early spring emerge on the bare branches, bringing the journey of the seasons full circle. This is a dynamic exhibition that is worth revisiting a few times between September 28 and February 23 to fully appreciate the changing displays of the deciduous bonsai as they transform through the seasons.


GSBF Clark Bonsai Collection

P.O. Box 5382

Fresno, CA 93755

© COPYRIGHT 2019. Golden State Bonsai Federation

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