With the holding in Tokyo of the Games of the XXXll Olympiad, the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Japan is currently the focus of increased international attention. On this occasion, with interest in Japanese culture and art thriving, the Yamatane Museum of Art is pleased to hold a special exhibition of paintings of cherry blossoms, a beloved symbol of Japan.
Cherry trees have long grown wild in Japan, on its mountains and lowlands. In the middle ages and the early modern period, aristocrats, samurai, and others in the upper reaches of society admired the cherry trees growing by their homes or in famous places. In the Edo period, a great number of new varieties of cherry trees were bred, cherry-blossom viewing became a custom widely observed by the common people, and the Japanese attachment to the cherry blossom grew broader and deeper. The cherry blossom, so beautiful in full bloom and so evanescent, its petals swiftly scattering, has long been celebrated in poetry, incorporated in designs for furnishings and other objects, and depicted in paintings. It has blossomed in the arts in a profusion of ways.
This exhibition, focusing on the cherry blossom, with such deep ties to the Japanese aesthetic, introduces about fifty modern and contemporary Nihonga from our collection. Hishida Shunsō’s Women Viewing Cherry Blossoms depicts ladies gathered beneath the trees in full bloom. Okumura Togyū’s Spring in Yoshino takes Nara’s Mount Yoshino, famous for its cherry trees, as its subject. Hashimoto Meiji’s Cherry Tree in Morning Sun addresses the Miharu Takizakura, a famous thousand-year-old cherry tree in Fukushima. Hashimoto Gahō’s Kojima Takanori, a Heroic Samurai: Scene from the Taiheiki (Chronicle of the Great Peace), depicts the “cherry tree of loyalty” episode in which Takanori rips bark off a cherry tree to write on it a poem of loyalty to the deposed emperor. Famous places, manners and customs, grand narratives: cherry trees play leading roles in works on scores of themes.
The spring of 2020 will bring paintings of cherry trees into full bloom in our museum. We hope you will enjoy the many portraits of the cherry tree that modern and contemporary Nihonga artists have created.