The Japanese have a long-standing affinity with nature. Elegant representations of the natural landscape and the four seasons that impact upon it abound in Japanese art, from lively images of pleasure-seekers viewing cherry trees in spring, to the vibrant golds and crimsons of autumnal landscapes, to playful scenes of children building snowmen on a crisp, cold morning in winter.
More than half of the country experiences prolonged and heavy snowfall each year, with towns and villages situated in the area north of the central mountain ranges experiencing snowdrifts of up to six metres. And it is the beauty and poetry of snowbound landscapes that the Fitzwilliam Museum is celebrating this winter in its exhibition Snow Country ~ Woodcuts of the Japanese Winter.
This small but perfectly formed exhibition, comprised of thirty woodblock prints (including four surimono) and two illustrated books (all taken from the museum's own collection), includes works by artists such as Hokusai, Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, Kunisada, Yoshitoshi, Eisen, and Harunobu. On display near the entrance to the exhibition is Ogata Gekkō's wonderful triptych The Sleeping Dragon Plum Tree at Kameido, from the series Comparison of Beauties and Flowers at Famous Places (Hana bijin meisho awase), published in 1895, which shows two elegant young women strolling beneath snow-covered umbrellas past the famous Sleeping Dragon Plum Tree, renowned for the whiteness and purity of its double blossoms.
Also on display is the most dramatic design from Hiroshige's famous series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo: an image of an eagle hovering above a deserted, snow-covered landscape as it prepares to dive for its dinner in the watery marshes below. His splendidly frosty triptych Mountains and Rivers on the Kiso Road (Kisoji no yamakawa) of 1857 hangs nearby.
Snow Country ~ Woodcuts of the Japanese Winter runs until Sunday 13th January 2013, and it's well worth a visit. Also, there are a number of snowy images reproduced on greeting cards in the museum shop so, with the festive season fast approaching, it is a good place to pick up your Christmas cards. And if you happen to be at the Fitzwilliam between now and the 11th November, you can also visit The Search for Immortality: Tomb Treasures of Han China, which is a thoroughly fascinating exhibition.
Location and opening times:
The Fitzwilliam Museum,
Tel: 01223 332900.
Open: Tuesday - Saturday 10:00 ~ 17:00, Sundays 12:00 ~ 17:00.
Closed: Mondays, 24-26 & 31 December 2012 and 1 January 2013.