There’s no mistaking spring here in the UK. As pictured, we have our own cherry blossom right outside the window and I should be contemplating the transience and the beauty of life and its sudden passing or mono no aware as it is known. This is a Japanese phrase that describes ‘the pathos of things’ and the wistfulness at their passing, something that the cherry blossom has embodied in Japan since the seventh century when the custom of Hanami was started. This custom, adopted by the Court at first but spreading throughout the centuries to the samurai class and eventually to everyone by the Edo period, involves the anticipation of the blossom, the taking of formal picnics beneath the flowering trees and the meditation of their swift passing.
The cherry blossom is quite explicitly referred to in the famous and near definition of the Floating World in the novel Ukiyo Monogatari by Asai Ryoi from 1661:
Living only for the moment, turning our full attention to the pleasures of the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms and the maple leaves; singing songs, drinking wine, diverting ourselves in just floating, floating; … refusing to be disheartened, like a gourd floating along with the river current: this is what we call the floating world…
Of course Japanese woodblock print artists have always pictured the cherry blossom, either because it figures so largely in books, legends and plays or because it also has such strong symbolism throughout Japanese art and culture. Hiroshige was particularly adept at introducing cherry blossom into his sometimes luxurious, floating landscapes.
Today in Japan there remains a keen interest in the approaching season with regular announcements on the weather stations about the expected first blooming in Okinawa and then in Kyoto; and Japanese citizens still turn out in large numbers to hold flower viewing parties.
Toshidama Gallery is showing Hiroshige and many other artists in its Spring Pictures exhibition. There are six superb works by Hirosada who remains a favourite at the gallery and an artist whom we consider deserves more appreciation. Also featured are a selection of Tokaido Road pictures and a superb Kakemono-e by Eisen. As usual, newsletter subscribers benefit from discounts on all pictures during the show. Best wishes to all our clients and readers for this spring and the coming seasons.