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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.


We’re bringing Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection to you! Join us this spring for 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.

Co-sponsored by the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University.

Yurika Wakamatsu, Assistant Professor of Art and Art History, Occidental College

Victoria Weston (respondent), Professor of Art, University of Massachusetts Boston

Melissa McCormick (moderator), Professor of Japanese Art and Culture, Harvard College Professor, Harvard University

with Rachel Saunders, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Curator of Asian Art, Harvard Art Museums

This talk will take place online via Zoom. Free admission, but registration is required. To register, please complete this online form.

For instructions on how to join a meeting in Zoom, please click here. If you have any questions, please contact

Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection was made possible by the Robert H. Ellsworth Bequest to the Harvard Art Museums, the Melvin R. Seiden and Janine Luke Fund for Publications and Exhibitions, the Catalogues and Exhibitions Fund for Pre-Twentieth-Century Art of the Fogg Museum, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the Thierry Porté Director’s Discretionary Fund for Japanese Art, and the Japan Foundation. The accompanying print catalogues were supported by the Harvard Art Museums Mellon Publication Funds, including the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund.

Related programming is supported by the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Series Endowment Fund, Harvard University’s Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, and the Department of History of Art and Architecture Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund for Art and Architecture.

The Harvard Art Museums are committed to accessibility for all visitors. For anyone requiring accessibility accommodations for our programs, please contact us at at least 48 hours in advance.