Masters of Japanese Prints: Nature and seasons

18 May 2019 – 8 Sep 2019

Event times

Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm
Closed Mondays; except Bank Holiday Mondays and Mondays during Bristol school holidays: 10am-5pm

Cost of entry

Free entry – donations welcome

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Featuring over 60 woodblock prints from our collection, this exhibition celebrates the Japanese fascination with the turning seasons and nature.


This is the third and final exhibition in our Masters of Japanese Prints series and will once again feature the iconic Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Hokusai.

Japan’s four distinct seasons have been a source of inspiration to artists and poets for hundreds of years.

The exhibition will explore the plants, birds, insects and weather that act as powerful symbols of seasonal change in Japanese culture. The woodblock prints celebrate poetic pleasures such as the cherry blossom and wisteria of spring, cicadas and summer festivals, geese flying across the autumn moon and winter snow-viewing.

Encounter the fleeting joys of nature through the eyes of some of Japan’s best-loved print designers such as Hiroshige, Hokusai, Harunobu and Kuniyoshi.

The rare and colourful prints in our collection, specially conserved and mounted for the exhibition, date from the 1760s to the 1930s.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery has a collection of some 500 ‘floating world pictures’ (ukiyo-e) which celebrate the pleasures of life in Japan. Our collection ranks in the top five regional UK collections.

Much of our collection was acquired from the 1940s to the 1960s under the arts curator, and later the director, Hans Schubart, who had a world view of art.

His vision was for Bristol’s collection to stand on the world stage and he felt that it was essential to have examples of Japanese woodblock prints. He admired “their great subtleties of colour, delicacy of line and elegance of composition.”

The exhibitions have been made possible thanks to a fundraising campaign that raised almost £21,000 towards the conservation and display of the works.

Generous contributions from individual donors and the Friends of Bristol Art Gallery have enabled the prints to be remounted and stored to prevent the light sensitive inks from fading.

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