The following is a guest post by Katherine Blood, Curator of Fine Prints, and Mari Nakahara, Curator of Architecture, Design, and Engineering, Prints & Photographs Division:
As Washington’s beloved cherry trees are in full bloom, we are inspired to share an assortment of seasonal-themed images from the Library’s extensive holdings of Japanese woodblock prints. In Japanese culture, art, and literature, the four seasons are often linked with famous places, annual festivals, and the thoughtful appreciation of natural phenomena including springtime sakura (cherry blossoms), bright autumn foliage, and winter snow. We invite you to explore some of the choice examples, including a number of jewel-colored landscapes by Hiroshige, recently added to our Japanese prints album available through Flickr Commons. The prints feature seasonal festivals and celebrated destinations, traditional pastimes from firefly-catching to flower and moon-viewing, and an array of natural beauties.
In time for the Cherry Blossom Festival, we have also prepared a special, public display in the Library’s Jefferson Building (March 30 to May 2, 2015) of highlights from the Library’s sakura-related collections. In addition to color woodblock prints and photographs, which range from historic to contemporary featuring sakura in Japan and the U.S., visitors can see early Cherry Blossom Princess programs from the 1940s and 50s, and images of watercolor drawings showing eleven sakura varieties. These collections illuminate the historical significance of sakura in Japan, and their continuing resonance in American culture and for Washingtonians in particular, thanks to Tokyo’s 1912 gift of the glorious trees that bloom each spring along the Tidal Basin and are scattered throughout Washington, D.C. as well. For example, one of the original gift trees can be viewed on the grounds of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building (below, right).
- Immerse yourself in The Floating World of Ukiyo-e: Shadows, Dreams, and Substance, an online exhibition, and then, see more than 2,500 Japanese woodblock prints and drawings, dating from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, by such artists as Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, Sadahide, and Yoshiiku in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.
- Return to a blog post from a year ago, The Beauty of Enduring Friendship: Cherry Blossoms, to learn more about the history of the sakura bonds between Japan and the United States.
- Learn the story of Japan’s gift to Washington of the famed cherry trees and view sakura-related treasures featured in the online exhibition Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship and the related gallery talk.
- Shirane, Haruo. Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012, presents a scholarly examination of the significance of cyclical seasonal themes.