"This exhibition explores the illustration of the natural world in Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and books selected from the Fitzwilliam Museum’s collection. Birds, insects, fishes, shells and flowers appear in a miscellany of guises. The centrepiece is the trio of books designed by Kitagawa Utamaro (c.1756-1806) on natural themes, known popularly as the ‘Insect Book’, ‘Shell Book’; and ‘Bird Book’. These are generally considered among the masterpieces of book design and printing, and visitors will be able to explore them more fully in a special virtual display. This is also the first chance to see Hokusai’s print, Convolvulus and Tree-frog, recently acquired by the Fitzwilliam with the help of the Art Fund and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund."
As well as the exquisite Utamaro books the exhibition includes prints by Hiroshige and Hokusai. The Utamaro books are worth seeing on their own and if you are unable to visit the museum you can access the excellent online interactive version, where you can view each book page by page, while clicking on the various notes will transalate the text and identify the birds and animals illustrated. You can also use the interactive display at the museum to do the same thing, as obviously you cannot turn the pages of the real book!
The exhibition is in the Shiba room, gallery 14 until Sunday 17 May. Entry is free.