CELEBRATING SPRING

A selection of spring-inspired objects from our collection

6-minute read


We’re sharing some of our favourite blossoms, blooms and spring scenes from the collection.

This bountiful season has inspired artists from all corners of the world for many, many centuries. Enjoy the stories behind these bright and beautiful works.


SPRING-TIME OBJECTS TRAIL

See what you can spot in the galleries this spring

SPRING STORIES


 

Dish with Flower Sprays

Turkey, Iznik 1530–1550
 

White dish with floral spray design in blue, violet and green from Iznik, Turkey, 1530-1550

This striking floral plate was made in Iznik, Turkey around 1530–1550, which at the time was under Ottoman rule.

Floral motifs became a hallmark of classical Ottoman art and architectural decoration between the 1500s and 1600s, due to the extensive use and appreciation of flowers in Turkey and neighbouring countries. Blooms like carnations, tulips and hyacinths, to name some of the most popular, were planted in their thousands in both public and private gardens and often adorned people's headgears and attires.

 

EAX.3277
On display in the Islamic Middle East Gallery 31, first floor


A Study, in March

by John William Inchbold​​​​​​, 1855
 

A richly coloured spring scene in a wooded area featuring foliage in the foreground, a sheep and two lambs in the mid ground and blue sky with clouds in the background.

This spring scene was painted by Pre-Raphaelite artist John William Inchbold (1830–1888). It is thought to have been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1855, and inspired by William Wordsworth's poem, ‘The Excursion’.

John William Inchbold was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, the son of a Yorkshire newspaper owner, Thomas Inchbold. Having shown a talent for drawing as a young man, he moved to London and became a student of the Royal Academy in 1847. This spring painting by him shows the Ruskin-inspired attention to detail and nature celebrated by artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The primrose and harebells in the foreground and the ewe and two lambs on the ridge, herald the arrival of spring, though the trees are still bare, their branches picked out in sharp detail against the blue sky.

WA1962.4.2
On display in the Pre-Raphaelites Gallery 66, third floor


Views of Cherry Blossom-Viewing at Ueno and Gotenyama

Left by Hishikawa Moronobu , c. 1618–1694. Right by Utagawa Hiroshige, 1843–47

 

Viewing cherry blossoms at Ueno print by Moronobu Hishikawa (c. 1618 - 1694)
A woodblock print of a landscape featuring a group celebrating beneath cherry blossoms by the sea

 

The Japanese tradition of viewing the cherry blossoms in spring is so popular that it has its own name – hanami, or flower viewing.

From the end of March, cherry trees blossom all across Japan and many people plan to visit their favourite hanami sites at 'just' the right moment. In fact, there is even a cherry blossom forecast announced by the Japanese Weather Bureau each year. 

The practice is centuries old, and was once limited to the elite of Japanese society. Today people gather in great numbers, hosting picnics and parties under the cherry trees to celebrate the start of spring.

The woodblock prints of Japanese artists HIshikawa Moronobu and Utagawa Hiroshige shows just that – joyous celebrations beneath the blossoms.

EAX.4004 and EAX.4709

Not on display


Gentle Spring

by Frederick Sandys, 1865

Gentle spring by Frederic Sandys, 1865

 

 

A splendid example of Pre-Raphaelite oil painting, this large artwork by Frederick Sandys (1829-1904) was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1865. The figure was painted in the garden of the poet and novelist, George Meredith. She represents Proserpina returning from the land of the dead. Sandys joined Rossetti's circle in 1857 and lived with him in Cheyne Walk for most of 1866.
See the Gentle Spring painting and Proserpina's story come to life in our animation >

WA1923.2
On display in the Pre-Raphaelites Gallery 66, third floor


 

Apple Blossom at Dennemont

by Charles Conder, 1893
 

A landscape painting of tree-lined a pathway in spring

This idyllic scene was painted by English-born painter Charles Conder (1868-1908). Conder emigrated to Australia when he was 16, where he would eventually become a pivotal part of the Heidelberg School - an Australian art movement with marked similarities to French Impressionism.

The group was named after a rural area outside of Melbourne, where the artists gathered to live and paint at an informal artist’s camp called the Mount Eagle Homestead. Members of the Heidelberg movement often painted ‘en plein air’, or out in nature, with an emphasis on light, colour and the use of experimental brush strokes.

Conder painted this picture after he had left Australia for Europe, spending the remainder of his life between France and England. When he arrived in Paris in 1890, he was particularly interested in Monet and Japanese art. He rented a small house in the countryside and often went on painting excursions to nearby towns, including Dennemont, where this was painted. 

 

WA1940.3
Not on display


Cherry Blossom Blizzard (花吹雪)

by Takahashi Hiromitsu, 2013

Colourful Japanese woodblock print of a woman in a Cherry Blossom Blizzard, by Hiromitsu

 

In this colourful stencil print by contemporary Japanese artist Takahashi Hiromitsu, we see a dramatic story from kabuki theatre.

The villainous warrior Daizen has imprisoned Princess Yuki in the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. He orders the Princess, who is from a family of talented artists, to paint a picture of a dragon on the ceiling. When she refuses, Daizen ties her to a cherry tree and takes her husband away to execute him.

As the petals of the cherry blossom fall around her like a snowstorm, the sorrowful Princess gathers up petals with her toes and draws a picture of a mouse with them. The picture is so realistic that it comes to life and gnaws through her ropes to set her free. Hiromitsu shows four separate white mice.

This artwork was on display in our previous Kabuki Legends exhibition that featured in Gallery 29. Kabuki Legends Part Two is currently showcasing a second selection of these unusual prints from the Ashmolean's own extensive collection of Hiromitsu's work, generously presented by Philip Harris.

EA2020.218
Not on display
Visit Hiromitsu's Kabuki Legends Part Two exhibition