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Vibrant Decay: Drifting among Moonlit Lotuses with Okuhara Seiko

Okuhara Seiko, Lotus in Autumn, Japanese, Meiji era, 1872. Hanging scroll; ink on paper.
Harvard Art Museums, Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg, TL42147.29.

Time & Location

May 25, 4pm EDT


In conjunction with Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection, the Harvard Art Museums present a series of virtual conversations exploring themes and highlights of the exhibition.

In this program, professor Yurika Wakamatsu will examine Lotus in Autumn (1872), an exceptionally large and immersive ink painting by Okuhara Seiko (1837–1913). The work takes the viewer on a journey from an intricate web of tangled lines and inky blotches to a lotus pond bathed in moonlight.

Rising from the depths of muddy pools, lotuses have long been cherished for their unsullied pink blossoms crowning slender green stems at the height of summer. But in Seiko’s painting, leaves unfurl into broad, broken parasols, and seed pods hang from dry, bent stalks. Why did Seiko choose to depict withered lotuses? And why did she render these decaying plants vibrant? Wakamatsu’s exploration reveals how Lotus in Autumn twists conventional pictorial and literary tropes to invite the viewer to appreciate the unconventional.

Professor Wakamatsu’s presentation will be followed by a response from professor Victoria Weston, a specialist in neo-traditional Japanese painting, and a moderated conversation with professor Melissa McCormick.

Visit the Harvard Art Museums website to learn more and register.

The exhibition, Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection, is supported through the Exhibitions Abroad Support Program.

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