Tags for: Cherry Blossom Season Isn’t Over…Yet!
  • Blog Post
  • Building and Grounds
  • Collection

Cherry Blossom Season Isn’t Over…Yet!

April 22, 2021
Nō Costume (Nuihaku) with Blossoming Trees and Flowers, 1675–99. Japan, Edo period (1615–1868). 1974.36

Come spring, the Fine Arts Garden at the south entrance of the Cleveland Museum of Art becomes a popular attraction. For many Greater Clevelanders, when the cherry blossoms appear around Wade Lagoon, it is a sign that spring has arrived.

Originating in Japan, cherry blossom trees called sakura (桜) commonly adorn Japanese textiles, decorative pieces, and other fine works of art. In Japan, cherry blossom season comes with a tradition dating to at least a thousand years ago called hanami, meaning “blossom viewing.” It is a time when people get together to share snacks or enjoy a picnic near or underneath the trees and appreciate the beauty and scent of the blossoms.

Watch this video to learn more about hanami.

Video URL

This year, the cherry blossoms have already bloomed, and due to the nature of the flowers, the blossoms only last a couple of weeks. If you missed them at their peak, join our virtual hanami through the CMA’s Collection Online.

Nō Costume (Nuihaku) with Blossoming Trees and Flowers, 1675–99. Japan, Edo period (1615–1868). Embroidery, silk and applied gold leaf on silk ground; overall: 164 x 138 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1974.36.

This magnificent robe was a costume specifically designed for performances of Noh theater in Japan. Originating during the 1300s from simple folk plays, Noh drama evolved into formal presentations of ritual, theater, dance, and music performed in the courts and shrines of the nobility. Stories were derived from a variety of sources — myths, legends, poetry, and prose — many dating back to the medieval period. The design of weeping cherry trees and irises in the snow was very likely inspired by a medieval Japanese poem.

Dish with Weeping Cherry Tree, late 1800s. Japan, Meiji period (1868–1912). Porcelain with underglaze blue and overglaze red enamel (Hizen ware, Nabeshima type); diameter: 15 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Sherman E. Lee 1963.97.

This dish depicts a cherry tree called sakuragi in Japanese, whose flower-laden branches are the centerpiece while a sliver of thetrunk and roots appear on the left edge. The blossoms are delicately depicted in an iron-red overglaze. The flowers’ various positions (facing out and downward) and stages of maturity (bud and full bloom) enhance the naturalism and dynamism of the image.

Cherry Blossoms in the Wind, late 1790s. Utagawa Toyokuni (Japanese, 1769–1825). Triptych of woodblock prints, ink and color on paper; overall: 38.7 x 80 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Jeptha H. Wade in honor of Emily V. Wade 1975.97.

Highly regarded for his images of actors, Utagawa Toyokuni (歌川 豊国) was also known for his prints of beauties that demonstrate his brilliant skill in composition. This triptych, an artwork divided into three sections, depicts a joyful hanami scene. One woman stands on a huge wine bottle, while another one sits on a samurai’s shoulder; in both scenes, the women are tying prayers or poems on tree branches. On the left, two servants protect a well-dressed lady from the wind. Their fluttering, long-sleeved kimonos capture the wind’s movement. Standing in a triad, the three groups form a stable, harmonic composition against the cherry blossom background.

Nagisa Palace from the Tales of Ise, late 1800s. Shibata Zeshin (Japanese, 1807–1891). Two-panel folding screen; ink, color, lacquer, and gold on silk; image: 175.3 x 190.5 cm; each side: 162.8 x 88.6 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund, 1981.2.

This screen depicts an episode from the Tales of Ise, a 10th-century collection of poems and associated narratives in which the main character composes the following poem while drinking sake and viewing cherry blossoms: If, in this world of ours / All the cherry blossoms / Disappeared / The heart of spring / Might find peace. 「伊勢物語」「渚の院」図屏風.

Our hero relaxes on a shoulder rest, gazing at the flowers, his sake dish before him on a lacquered stand. A plump boy attendant monitors the sake dishes, a ewer at the ready. An associate sits with paper, ink, and brush, poised to record poems.

Explore this painted two-panel folding screen and several other Japanese artworks on view in Rinpa (琳派), in gallery 235A through October 3. Rinpa is a style of Japanese art focused on abstracted natural motifs and allusions to classical literature. This rotation tells the story of later Rinpa style, introducing works by important artists active in the 1700s, 1800s, and early 1900s.

Feeling inspired by the Japanese artworks featuring sakura? Here’s a simple origami cherry blossom you can make at home.

Shown: 4 of 6 steps to make the flower. Make more and arrange on a piece of paper to create your own cherry blossom tree.

Visit the cherry blossoms while they last in the CMA’s Fine Arts Garden and tag @clevelandmuseumofart on Instagram. You may see your photo shared on the CMA’s Instagram stories. Take a look at a few of our favorite shots by CMA visitor and Cleveland photographer, Rachel J. Martin.

Photo: Rachel J. Martin. Instagram: @rachjmartin.
Photo: Rachel J. Martin. Instagram: @rachjmartin.
Photo: Rachel J. Martin. Instagram: @rachjmartin.

To read more about the Fine Arts Garden and other beautiful green spaces and walking paths around the CMA, like the new Smith Family Gateway, check out our previously published CMA Thinker article Find the Art among the Cherry Blossoms. You can learn about the many sculptures sprinkled around the landscape, including favorites like The Thinker and Turtle Baby.