Spring Showers

Written by
Madison Folks
Published on
April 12, 2020 at 5:08:12 AM PDT April 12, 2020 at 5:08:12 AM PDTth, April 12, 2020 at 5:08:12 AM PDT

Rainy days envelop the senses, from sparkling reflections in the puddles and the steady drum of rain out the window, to the crisp smell of the air just before a storm and the sensation of cool mist against skin. These days can be refreshing beneath the cover of an umbrella, but they can also be cozy, when admired through a window. As spring promises brings a change in the weather, we invite you to enjoy the beauty of rain from the warmth and comfort of your home.

Hiroshige, "Tsuchiyama," from the series Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido (Hoeido), c.1833. Woodblock print. Ronin Gallery.

Tsuchiyama, located just six stops from Kyoto on the Tokaido, was known for its incessant rain. Hiroshige stays true to this reputation in his view of Tsuchiyama station. Dark rain soaks the procession of travelers while the river swells and rages beneath the bridge. Through the bowed heads and a black sky above, Hiroshige evokes the atmospheric beauty of a downpour.

Hiroshige, "Tsuchiyama: Mt.Suzuka in Rain," from the series Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido (Gyosho), c.1842. Woodblock print. Ronin Gallery.

Hiroshige explored the theme of the Tokaido road, the highway connecting Edo and Kyoto, throughout his career. Printed roughly ten years after the print above, this scene of Tsuchiyama remains true to the rainy beauty of this station. As above, Hiroshige's figures are undaunted, continuing their trek despite the downpour, but a closer look gives us a better understanding of conditions on the road: in the foreground, travelers sink ankle deep in the muddy, flooded path, while in the distance, yellow and green traveling cloaks whip in the wind.

Hokusai, "Sudden Shower at Okido, Tamagawa" from Ehon Kyoka: Mountains upon Mountains, 1804. Woodblock print. Ronin Gallery.

In this scene from the illustrated book Mountains upon Mountains, Hokusai captures the surprise of a sudden storm. As the figures improvise to shield themselves, the wind drives the rain on a diagonal, rendering their efforts futile.

Shotei, "Sudden Shower," c.1830. Woodblock print. Ronin Gallery.

Shotei offers another glimpse of a surprise storm. Fabric whips around the woman's ankles as she rushes to grab the laundry hung out to dry at a sunnier hour. In the distance, the heavy rain reduces the landscape to silhouette.

Hasui, "Nissaka on Tokaido," 1942. Woodblock print. Ronin Gallery.

As puddles fill with rainwater, they reflect the hazy light of a rainy evening. The last glow of sunset reflects from the ground, coupling with the warm lamplight pouring from the windows, and turning the wet ground into a mirror. Umbrella raised, a lone figure carries their child to through the rain in this romantic scene from Hasui.

Shigeki Kuroda, "Water Mirage," 1985. Mezzotint. Ronin Gallery.

In this contemporary mezzotint, Kuroda's cyclists blur beneath a flurry on umbrellas. As wheels turn, riders anxious to reach a drier destination, you can almost hear the spray of water from the street and feel the raindrops on your face.