Spring is one of the most beautiful times of year for flowers. After a long and cold winter, we begin to feel warm sun and see shots of vibrant colours in the flowers that begin to bloom. Tulips, daffodils, magnolia trees and bluebells all start to make an appearance, lifting the country’s mood and making landscapes even more beautiful. When it comes to spring blossoms, none are quite so spectacular as the cherry blossom tree.
Seasonal images are widely celebrated in Japan. Their culture is one that celebrates each season with festivals and rituals in accordance with ‘shinto’, Japan’s native belief system.
The cherry blossom plays a huge part in the celebrations for spring in literary works, festivals and artwork as a metaphor for the beauty and short-lived time of nature. This is a very important metaphor in celebrating the season of spring and the cherry blossom often takes centre stage in paintings, prints and woodcuts. People even have picnics with sake (like a Japanese whisky) underneath them!
Much like our artists at artgallery, Japan continues to celebrate cherry blossoms even today. Each year shops get ready with plastic cherry blossom petals, tins of fizzy drink are cherry blossom flavoured and much more. The people of Japan wait for blossom season to be officially declared open each season when at least six flowers have opened on a sample tree in any area of Japan. Usually tying in with April 1st, the blossoms also symbolise new beginnings. This ties in nicely with the Japanese financial and school year beginning on April 1st.
As one of the most important focuses of spring art, the cherry blossom grew more stylised giving us that famous oriental look we recognise all over the world. However, this tradition began with not the cherry blossom, but the plum blossom as it was the first to bloom in spring. Many early Japanese art depicting ‘hanami’ (the joyful tradition of flower viewing) featured plum and cherry blossoms. Cherry trees gradually became more popular and can now be seen in many examples of iconic Japanese art from embellishing furniture to woodcuts.
In 1850 Japan began to trade with the Western world, creating a huge popularity for the art form – particularly in France. Famous French printmaker Phillipe Burty was so inspired by ‘Japonisme’ that he and many colleges began to advocate teaching it to all young art students. Since then Japanese art has continued to take the world by storm with its beautiful blossoms.
One of the most famous artists of the Western world to fall in love with cherry blossoms and Japanese art was Vincent van Gogh. Known for his fields of crops and irises, van Gogh was also fascinated with Japanese prints and is known to have amassed a collection of ‘hundreds’ or original pieces of art. In a letter to his brother Theo, September 1880 we wrote,
“And we wouldn’t be able to study Japanese art, it seems to one, without becoming much happier and more cheerful, and it makes us return to nature, despite our education and our work in a world of convention,”
Artists from colleges in the Netherlands at the time of van Gogh hadn’t yet caught on to the Japanese craze, unlike Paris. When van Gogh moved to France in 1888 he became fascinated by this style that was all the rage.
We have many artists on our online gallery who have also been inspired by the beautiful cherry blossoms of spring:
Amanda Dagg uses a heavy mixed media effect for her cherry tree to create the impression of a tree full of blossom. The dense petal space looks like it’s bursting with colour and flowers compared to the delicate and thin layered trunk.
Jelena Manestar has taken inspiration from the landscape set-up of the Japanese style paintings with mountains in the background and a cherry blossom in the foreground.
The delicate oil brush strokes have created delicate little petals on the cherry blossom and a lovely contrast with the deep blues of the lake.
Aisha Haider captures the walks through cherry blossom lined paths that can now be seen all over the world, but particularly in Japan. She has also added a few dropped petals that is also refer to as ‘snow’ in Japan due to it covering such a vast amount of ground.
Sam Martin has created a closer view of the cherry blossom and has painted them in a style very similar to the Japanese artists.
Take a look at our online gallery to discover more artists and their paintings of cherry blossoms to celebrate spring.