The Japanese basically pioneered plein air living; doctors there routinely prescribe "forest bathing" for optimum mental health. And springtime in Japan, when the sakura, or cherry blossoms, are in spectacular bloom, is the perfect time for an outdoor sojourn. For those who can't fly to Tokyo, Ronin Gallery is bringing the blossoms to New York in a gorgeous exhibition of both traditional Japanese ukiyo-e prints and contemporary works featuring the fleeting flowers.
"A number of Japanese woodblock print (ukiyo-e) artists have incorporated sakura into their art," David Taro Libertson, President of Ronin Gallery, tells Creators. "For example, the sakura remains a recurring element in Hiroshige's (1797-1858) epic series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. In pieces like Mt. Shinfuji in Meguro and Gotenyama, Shinegawa, famous groves of cherry trees depict the splendor of spring. The appeal of his tender, lyrical landscapes was not restricted to the Japanese audience. Hiroshige's work had a profound influence on the Impressionists and post-Impressionists of Europe: Toulouse-Lautrec was fascinated with Hiroshige's daring diagonal compositions and inventive use of perspective, while van Gogh literally copied two prints from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo in oil paint."
The Japanese appreciate the sakura as a symbol of ephemerality; it perfectly expresses the concept of mono no aware, a Japanese term for the simultaneous appreciation of and melancholy inherent in life's transience. The short but intense bloom— sakura season lasts just two weeks, tops—is an experience central to much of Japanese culture and Zen philosophy, and related floral imagery is abundant in everything from anime and textiles to ceramics and theater.
"As photography was introduced in Japan in the later years of the Edo period, cherry blossoms were often featured as a backdrop or as a framing element to enhance the scenes and lure travelers to explore Japan's serenity, such as in Young Woman in Spring or Young Woman Among Cherry Blossoms," Libertson says. The cherry blossom as a metaphor for impermanence has even been used in nationalist military propaganda in Japan, with fallen warriors likened to falling petals and blossoms painted onto the sides of kamikaze planes.
The prints on view at Ronin Gallery perfectly capture a sense of fleeting beauty. Time stands still in delicate renderings of springtime park scenes and serene meditations under the trees. It's a visual entry point for mental self-care, and staring at the blossoms, allowing oneself to be transported to a pink frosted wonderland, is a timely antidote to present global troubles.
See all the prints on view in Cherry Blossoms at Ronin Gallery here.