Painted during Theodore Wores' second journey to Japan, Sunshine and Cherry Blossoms, Nogeyama, Yokohama captures a purely Japanese scene, revealing the tranquility of the local people in their brightly colored traditional dress, their neat wooden homes and a picturesque view of Yokohama Bay beyond. The charming composition is enveloped with a multitude of vivid cherry blossoms, creating a warm, sun-dappled effect throughout the foreground. Wores painted Sunshine and Cherry Blossoms, Nogeyama, Yokohama in 1893 in the Nogeyama district of Yokohama, which is still known today as a prime destination to view Japan's brilliant cherry blossoms.
A native of San Francisco, Wores was fortunate to live in the city during a time of tremendous urban growth as a result of the California Gold Rush. News of recently discovered gold reached a very diverse population, from the territories of the United States to Europe, Mexico, Central and South America, Australia and Asia. Wores was particularly fascinated by the Asian culture that developed in San Francisco and was very innovative in his depictions of this genre in his paintings. He made regular visits to Chinatown capturing scenes of everyday life such as fishmongers, shopkeepers, flower markets, funerals, the theater and opium dens. This early exposure to Asian culture was the catalyst that eventually led Wores to Yokohama, Japan in February 1885, where he would create what are considered his most important works.
In 1858, Yokohama was established as a port to accommodate Western trade and was one of the few population centers of the country that would allow Western visitors. Its location near the Meiji Imperial City of Tokyo contributed to its prosperity. During this period, Western infiltration threatened traditional Japanese customs. In spite of this, Wores was overwhelmed by this strange land and his "first impressions provoked an uncharacteristic artistic paralysis: 'I can't tell you what an effect my first few months stay in that country had upon me. I could do nothing, settle down to nothing, it was all so new, so strange, so wonderfully beautiful that when I looked around for a subject I was bewildered. I wanted to do everything at once, and consequently, for a time, I did nothing.'" (J.N. Thompson, Theodore Wores: An American Artist in Meiji Japan, Pasadena, California, 1993, p. 32 - taken from a quotation without citation in Ferbrache, p. 16)
Wores was fastidious in his desire to learn about Japanese culture and he amassed an extensive library on a variety of Japanese subjects. In his paintings, he left behind the influences of his German education and turned to a brighter palette and loose impressionistic brushstrokes. Despite the onslaught of Western influence in the country, Wores consciously captured traditional Japan in his paintings. He portrayed "tantalizing scenes of characteristic Japanese architecture juxtaposed with figures in traditional dress and a profusion of local vegetation recording the particularities of the place in a straightforward, almost reportorial style. Wores was very aware of his role as interpreter of a vanishing aspect of Japanese culture." (Theodore Wores: An American Artist in Meiji Japan, p. 37)
Wores returned to San Francisco in 1887, where he arrived to great fanfare. He exhibited his Japanese work at the San Francisco Art Association to much public acclaim and highly favorable critical reviews. At the time, there was tremendous curiosity about the Japanese culture and Wores brought with him not only his artwork, which were accurate visual references, but also writings and information regarding Japanese architecture, cuisine, dress, literature and other various cultural aspects.
However, as successful as he was in the United States, he still longed for Japan. So in 1892 he embarked on a second journey, where he proved to be much more prolific than on his prior trip, creating as many as 100 canvases in the first year. Sunshine and Cherry Blossoms, Nogeyama, Yokohama is a splendid work from this productive second trip. It reveals Wores mature understanding of the Japanese culture and his strong desire to capture Japan's natural beauty. He remained in Japan until 1894, when he returned to San Francisco. Throughout his career he was a peripatetic traveler, but his life and work were always greatly influenced more by his experiences in Japan than anywhere else. The body of artwork that he created and the intellectual interest that he stimulated in the Japanese culture were the fruit of his Japanese voyages and have remained the personification of his legacy.
The following exhibition catalogues accompany the lot: Theodore Wores: The Japanese Years, Oakland, California, 1976; W.H. Gerdts and J.N. Thompson, Theodore Wores: An American Artist in Meiji Japan, Pasadena, California, 1993; The World of Theodore Wores, Stanford, California, 1999; and Theodore Wores: Works from the California and Japan Years, Santa Clara, California, 2000.