Japanese Art & Design Themes

Motifs & symbols: natural features

The natural world - mountains, clouds, rivers, the sea - are often depicted in Japanese art. Clouds represent elegance and high status. In Buddhism, clouds signify the ‘Western Paradise’ beyond earth; and in Shintoism, the spirits of the dead. Mountains represent the unyielding, or unmoving. Water, or waves, signify power and resilience. Waves constantly ebb and flow and so symbolize great tactical ability.

Motifs & symbols: plants & flowers

Images used to decorate Japanese artefacts are often wonderfully simple and effective communicators of meaning. The images are usually not meant to be realistic, and may not even be in lifelike colours: flowers may be reduced to bare essentials, maybe as little as five petal shapes joined to a central circle.

A gift in your will

You may not have thought of including a gift to a museum in your will, but the V&A is a charity and legacies form an important source of funding for our work. It is not just the great collectors and the wealthy who leave legacies to the V&A. Legacies of all sizes, large and small, make a real difference to what we can do and your support can help ensure that future generations enjoy the V&A as much as you have.


Event - From Rococo to Art Nouveau: 1720-1900. 14/15

Thu 25 September 2014–Thu 09 July 2015

YEAR COURSE: Gain a unique perspective on one of the most dynamic periods in the history of European art. Consider the relationship between the visual arts and
the wider political and cultural context of the period and explore themes such as taste, patronage and the art market.

Book online