The spring cherry blossoms have delighted artists and observers for centuries, but even when the last bloom falls, Japan’s flower clock doesn’t stop ticking.
Woodblock print artist Kamatsu Shiro, whose life spanned nearly the entire 20th century, presents six of Japan’s other iconic seasonal flowers in this charming floral collection from the 1960s.
These same flowers have inspired art prints for generations. Take a look below at some of the other impressions created by artists from the Edo period to the present day.
Japanese Iris in Print
The summer bloom of the Japanese Iris has been enjoyed for over a thousand years, when these rich blue flowers made such a lasting impression in the Tales of Ise. The description of a glade of Irises in that anthology has been immortalized in many works of art, including Ogata Korin’s famous folding screen.
Ohara Koson captures the freshness and vitality of the flowers in this pre-war floral print.
Morning Glory Woodblock Print
For many the circular flowers of the Morning Glory are the quintessence of summer. The plant was originally brought over from China, but in the intervening 1200 years Japanese horticulturalists and artists have made it their own.
In this floral print, Meiji imperial court artist Imao Keinen depicts a bird playing among the curling leaves.
When it comes to Japanese symbols, the Chrysanthemum outshines all others. This intricate fall bloom was long ago adopted as the crest of the Japanese Imperial family, and as such adorns the passports of every Japanese citizen.
Kawarazaki Shodo elegantly traced the fine detail of the Chrysanthemum in this work from his popular collection of floral prints published in the 1950s.
Woodblock Print of a Bellflower
The bellflower is another gift of the fall. Renowned 19th century print artist Utagawa Hiroshige II describes their simple geometric forms and softly fading violet color in this print from his collection Thirty-Six Selected Flowers.
Camelia in Contemporary Print
Representing the end of the cold winter, the Camelia is greeted with joy. Some of that purity and optimism can be observed in the warm colors and pleasing blue skies of this floral print by artist Katsuyuki Nishijima.
The vivid block colors and bold lines of Nishijima’s work are clearly of a modern style, but the process by which he creates his prints is the same as woodblock artists have used for centuries.
A Classic Plum Blossom Ukiyoe Print
Although today it is the cherry blossom that gets all the attention, it was originally the plum blossom whose arrival was celebrated as the beginning of spring.
One of Japan’s most famous artists, Katsushika Hokusai documents the seasonal change in this simple but captivating composition. You can feel the passage of time as the gnarled old branches of this plum tree, adorned with bright young flowers, greet the rising moon.
Intrigued? Delighted? Questions? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!