While a light chill may still hang in the air, the first blooms of delicate pink petals ensure us that spring has indeed arrived. The blooming of cherry blossoms, or “sakura” is an event witnessed and celebrated across the globe. Admired from picnic blankets beneath blushing boughs to citywide festivals, the delicate beauty of these flowers draws crowds wherever they bloom. In Japan, this practice is known as hanami, or "flower viewing."
As Hiroshige frames the landscape with a low-hanging cherry branch, he invites us to appreciate the delicate petals up close. (Hiroshige,"Suijin Shrine and Massaki, Sumida River" from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 1856, Ronin Gallery. )
Widely celebrated for hundreds of years in Japanese literature, poetry and art, sakura are beloved for their intense and fleeting beauty. Due to their brief life span (14 days at most), cherry blossoms serve as a metaphor for the transient nature of human. During the Edo period (1603-1868), this metaphor extended to the short, yet brilliant lives of warriors and the fleeting beauty of courtesans. Today, all around the world, people pause to appreciate this seasonal beauty.
In the spirit of social distancing, this selection of prints from the online exhibition Welcome, Spring invites you to enjoy the beauty of the cherry blossom from the comfort of your home. Through this digital hanami, we invite you to explore splendor of cherry blossoms through artists' eyes.
Petal laden boughs hang heavy above the water this peaceful scene of early spring. In the series Eight Views of Cherry Blossoms, Yoshida captures famous Japanese sites for hanami, or "flower viewing." (Hiroshi Yoshida, "Arashiyama," from the series Eight Views of Cherry Blossoms, 1935, Ronin Gallery.)
Hiroshige brings together the flower as well as the feminine beauty it has come to represent in this kakemono-e. As the beauty pulls the edge of her kimono tight against the chill of early spring, cherry blossoms bloom just above her head. (Hiroshige, "Under Cherry Blossoms," c. 1845, Ronin Gallery.)
Beneath a clear sky, temple visitors admire the shades of pink abloom just outside the gate. Though the trees to the left blush with petals, the boughs to the right have yet to reach their peak. (Hiroshi Yoshida, "Chionin Temple Gate," 1935, Ronin Gallery.)
In this lively triptych, Kunichika welcomes you to a 19th flower viewing party. In the foreground, a trio of beauties and their attendants relax beneath the petals. Along the top edge of the right sheet, we can see another festive group enjoying the season. (Kunichika, "Viewing Cherry Blossoms," 1854, Ronin Gallery.)
Reclining back on his left hand, a young Minister Sakuramachi looks up at the flowering branches above. As petals fall silently to the ground, he closes the fingers of his right hand, perhaps around a fallen flower. (Gekko, Minister Sakuramachi, from the series Flowers of Japan, 1897, Ronin Gallery.)