Last week, a new exhibit opened at the Weatherspoon Arts museum titled: “In Falling Snow: Japanese Prints from the Lenoir C. Wright Collection.” These wondrous prints depict winter snow set in Japan. Ranging from showing Japanese culture in winter, to the beautiful colors of winter to brutal warfare, the settings show psychological situations either in Japanese culture or in Japanese plays.
These prints are made from wood and achieve the reality of white snow either with paint or the white canvass underneath. The prints also illustrate the strange phenomenon of the winter season and how it provides visual interest. Originally the prints were gifted to the Weatherspoon Art Museum by Dr. Lenoir “Len” Wright, who is a professor emeritus of History and Political Science at UNCG. This collection features major Japanese artists of the 18th, 19th and early 20ths centuries.
One of the first prints exhibited in the room is “Nishijin, Kyoto” by Junichiro Sekino. This print details the images of rooftops full of heavily fallen snow at night. There is a soft yellow light illuminating from the inside of the houses that are surrounded by dark shades and white snow. This prints also portrays traditional Japanese roofs that the artist was known for putting in their paintings. The roofs appear to be metal planks on top of a wooden slate. Heavy snow falling in the image makes it appear blurry, as if we are looking through to a window to see this scene. The artist is juxtaposing the dark blue if nighttime with the bright white of the snow. Every warm light coming from the houses is illuminating the snow and making the night appear brighter than it actually is.
The beauty of community and winter snow can be seen in “Beauties in the Snow at the Sumida River” by Utagawa Hiroshige.
This image illustrates two woman bundled against the cold taking a walk along the waterfront under an umbrella. The depicted women are dressed in elaborate kimonos and appear having a conversation. There is a third woman who is stepping off a boat and getting out her umbrella to combat the falling snow.
This print fascinated me because the women look like they are in traditional garb with their faces painted white with red lipstick. I thought this represented Japanese society during the winter months. When you think of Japan you hardly ever think of it as a snowy area so I like how I get an even slight peek into snowy Japan.
Additionally, in the background of the print are fishermen who are standing on boats on the water. There are also people in a house observing the fisherman. This print is a three panel print, or “triptych”, in which there are three different prints combined. The center print are the two women bundled against each other, the right print is the woman coming off the boat, and the left one shows the fishermen and the people in the house watching. This print reveals how these people’s lives are separate but combined in the same area.
Along with having expressions of quiet nights and busy days there are also expressions of war. The print “Night Attack of the Loyal Retainers” by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi is a three part print that depicts the moment when the forty-seven Ronin burst into the mansion of their enemy, seeking the death of their master. This print depicts graphic images of the soldiers running towards each other and stabbing each other with swords.
One specifically graphic image of a guys face being sliced in half. This image provides a large juxtaposition between the red blood and the white snow on the ground. There is also juxtaposition in the background of the print between a group of ninjas dressed in all black on a white snowy roof. Every image in this picture seems to pop out through the white snow surrounding the landscape.
The Weatherspoon also is featuring “The Kindness of Friends: Gifts in honor of the 75th anniversary” and “Decade by Decade: Art acquired in its time”.
The Japanese prints exhibit will be running through February 26, 2017.