Four round chrysanthemum blossoms stand against a backdrop of green. To the left of the image, a series of vertically written Kanji spell out a corresponding Haiku poem.
Four White Chrysanthemums (2024)

Four White Chrysanthemums, with Poem by Masaoka Shiki

Of Japan’s printed flowers, the chrysanthemum is perhaps its most recognisable. The country’s economy expanded during the Edo period, which brought about market growth for mass-produced woodblock prints. This affordable artwork was permeated by Japan’s cultural reverence of nature.

Among the pictorial subgenres that emerged, flowers were regularly incorporated. Particularly within Shiki-e (seasonal prints) and Kachō-e (bird and flower prints). Of the many flowers, the blossom of the chrysanthemum became an oft-seen motif. Their cultivation in Japan led to a multitude of colours and petal formations, many of which appeared in the artwork. Not only decorative; to this day they are considered a symbol of honour and nobility, and still used for Japan’s Imperial Seal. When trade with the west was resumed in the mid 19c., this and other flowers adorned the crafted objects and prints that informed European Japonisme.

Many schools emerged within ukiyo-e, enriching the pictorial subjects, and the techniques with which they were depicted. These schools extended the lineage of accomplished artists, fostering a market that delighted in small printed artwork that could be hung in the home.

The Haikus of Shiki

Masaoka Shiki was a poet of the Meiji era and is considered among the great masters of Haiku. After moving to Tokyo he worked with Nippon Newspaper and edited a Haiku magazine called Hototogisu (Cuckoo). He particularly favoured realistic observations of nature, and advocated for innovations that would revitalise the writing of haiku. His efforts likely helped ensure the genre’s continuation while Japanese society was being exposed to western artistic culture.

Four White Chrysanthemums (2024) is part of an ongoing exploration of Japanese visual culture. The featured poem is by Shiki:

The fragrance of chrysanthemums
on white paper,
the brush strokes fall.

Giclée printed onto archival quality 308gsm Hahnemule paper, this unique art-print is available framed. Drop an email if interested.

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