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Speaking to the Future Series
Cherry Blossoms in Natural History Paintings

Speaking to the Future Series
Cherry Blossoms in Natural History Paintings / Honkan Room 16   March 9, 2010 (Tue) - April 25, 2010 (Sun)

Albums of Sketches, By Maruyama Okyo, Edo period, 18th century

Natural history paintings are illustrations produced in connection with the study of natural science, and are either drawn from nature or copied. Even before natural science became popular, however, artists made drawings of this kind to record the true appearance of plants and animals for their own reference. The work of artists such as Maruyama Okyo, who recognized the importance of painting from nature, conveys their interest in natural science and curiosity about the true nature of things.

In Japan, the rise of natural science was sparked by a national-scale survey of agricultural produce conducted during the Tenpo era by the Tokugawa shogunate. The initiative contributed to a growth in curiosity about the animals, plants and minerals of the natural world, and broadened the scope of scholarship in these fields.

Around this time, in addition to scholars Tamura Ransui, Ono Ranzan, Udagawa Yoan and their contemporaries, other prominent identities such as Hosokawa Shigekata, lord of Higo domain, and literary figure Kimura Kenkado also practiced as natural scientists. The field later came to be influenced by Western scholarship via European scientists including Carl Thunberg and Philipp von Siebold, and this is evidenced by publications such as Iwasaki Kan'en's Honzo Zufu ("Illustrated Guide to Plants," 1828).

This exhibition takes the cherry blossoms of spring as its theme, and spans from the works of Kano Tan'yu, which prefigure the natural history drawing genre, to educational charts from the Meiji period.

 Major works in this exhibition

* Works listed below are in the TNM Collection unless otherwise indicated.
Sketches of Flowering Plants, By Kano Tan'yu, Edo period, 17th century
Honzo Zufu ("Illustrated Guide to Plants"), By Iwasaki Kan'en, Edo period, 19th century
Illustrated Guide to Imported Plants, By Baba Daisuke, Edo period, dated 1855