Three nights ago, after I had spent a good deal of time pouring over images of Katsushika Hokusai's prints, (which I quickly became enamored of), I dreamt about them. In my dream, I found myself living inside them. It was as though I had become part of the images, living a life set amongst these scenes with the people who inhabit them. We shared an unspoken communication, which made me feel deeply connected to them. There was nothing disturbing about the dream, just a sense of tranquility tinged with sadness that comes from knowing how tenuous life can sometimes appear to be. I was moved by their ability to remain quietly joyful.
Hokusai's most well-known piece is called, "The Great Wave off Kanagawa." It brings to mind the earthquake and tsunami that wreaked such havoc on Japan a few months ago. This past Sunday night on 60 Minutes, Bob Simon visited a town that had been pretty much obliterated by the tsunami, a town where entire families are unaccounted for and presumed dead. There were some horrendous images of its after-effects, including large boats on tops of buildings amid devastating destruction, but his conversation with a man who had lost everything, everything, and was still able to smile, captured my heart.
In the narration, Simon talked about how in Japan it's considered a weakness to allow severe emotions to take over one's life; they believe they have an obligation to put on a very brave face and maintain a positive attitude, and yes, there is a downside to this part of their culture, but I was still amazed at this man's resiliency. During the end of the segment, he pointed out where his house had once stood. There on its site a hydrangea bush had small green shoots pushing their way out of the rubble-strewn ground. He showed them to Bob Simon, pointed at them, and with a smile said, "This is hope... We are living."
When I look at Hokusai's prints, I am awestruck by the work involved in carving a relief in wood of what is really a mirror image, which is then used to create the print. It's an interesting process that I don't fully understand, but I've been doing more reading about it and find it intriguing. I've discovered I have an affinity for them, along with a desire to better understand his passion for this work. I see it in the meticulous and loving care he's given them and I can't help myself, I'm smitten.
I encourage you to click on each image to see a somewhat larger, clearer view of them and if you're interested in doing any further reading you might want to start with these:
Teresa, this is a wonderful post.ReplyDelete
You might be interested in a children's book by Pearl Buck called The Big Wave. I actually wrote about it last March, after the tsumami had wreaked its anger in Japan. A friend told me about it and I was not only surprised that I didn't know Buck had written children's books, but, that it was still sitting on library shelves and teachers hadn't been using it with their classrooms in discussion on the disaster.
It is about a tsunami and a small village in Japan. It is a wonderful story and ties in with your post today, not only for the content, but, for the illustrations. Woodcuts. Most of which were done by Hokusai.
In her introduction to the book, Pearl Buck says she wanted pictures that “express the spirit of Japan and her people.” adding, in her introduction, that “If you look long enough and deeply into the pictures while you read the story, you will know how it seems to be in Japan, and you will understand Kino and Jiya and when you understand them, you will like them.” Kino and Jiya are two boys in the story.
Sorry, me again. I don't normally show a link to my blog in comments, but, there is a bit more about the book in the post, so, if interested, it isReplyDelete
Lovely art, I often wonder if he was deplicting a memory or an actual event he was watching.For you and your dream it is part of a memory of a great artist.ReplyDelete
It is amazing how resilient human beings can be when faced with life and death matters, and yet be so emotional over small day-to-day things (in the U.S. anyway).ReplyDelete
I particularly like how people are tiny seemingly insignificant details in many of Hokusai's works of nature. There is certainly a serene quality to them. When I was very young we lived in Japan and I remember prints like these and so today have a particular fondness for them. Wasn't he really popular in the 70's?
Penny, Thank you so much for that information around the Pearl S. Buck story. I will look for the book. I love so-called children's books. They have much to teach adults, as well. Thank you for the link back to your post on the book. You shared it with such love and understanding. Kino and Jiya are, of course, children everywhere.ReplyDelete
Steve, I loved the dream. It made me feel so good, so connected to the people of Japan.ReplyDelete
Rubye Jack, I had a set of four vertical wall panels that my mother gave to me back in 1969. I wonder now if they were based on his work. He lived from 1760 - 1849, but very possibly had a resurgence of interest at that time. Viet Nam made us more aware, perhaps.
Rubye Jack, I wanted to add: I'd love to hear stories of your time in Japan, if you are so inclined....ReplyDelete
I recently saw a documentary that referred to The Great Wave painting as accurately depicting the slow motion action of a giant wave. How insightful is that?!ReplyDelete
Beautiful, magnificent art! To have dreamed that you were engulfed within the imagery must have been wonderful.ReplyDelete
Where there is life there is hope. Yes. No doubt. Thank you.
Dear Teresa, I had seen some of these prints before but never knew the artist's name or anything else about him or the prints. Thank you for sharing this with us. I'd also like to thank "life on the cutoff" for her information on the Pearl S. Buck book.ReplyDelete
And now a question for you. I'm relatively new to blogging and I don't know where to go to find free images I might use. Nor do I know how to get them on my computer once I find them.
I'm wondering if you have a site to recommend. I'm also wondering where you find these lovely photographs of prints an people.
Ms. Sparrow, I love it when the Universe offers us information that "coincides." That these artist were able to so accurately depict such events makes me wonder if they used an intuitive sense and gathered the information on some other level of understanding. All very intriguing to me. :)ReplyDelete
Wild Bill, I trust you're out In the woods after surgery! :) It was a wonderful dream. I recall a lot of blues from some of the images in the dream. Maybe an allusion back to water. Life and hope, indeed.
Hi Dee, I usually google a name or an idea and add images after it. Some images are in the public domain and others, belonging to individuals, are not. If I'm using a living person's image and they are identified, I ask permission. I don't get overly concerned about artists who are no longer with us, as I'm not trying to earn money off my blog, just inform and share. Do you know about right clicking on an image to save and download? Then blogger will guide you through the steps with the icons at the top of the draft/posting page. I hope this makes sense....
You are what you areReplyDelete
And can never be but you,
The mist before wind.
Paul, If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, I think you might like the poem in my previous post, "Hokusai Says."ReplyDelete
The prints are wonderful, full of the love of nature. Lovely post Teresa.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Marilyn.ReplyDelete
Being in these prints whether in reality or in a dream would be so wonderful, peaceful and all-encompassing. They are magnificent and I thank you for sharing them here. It will take a while to study each one.ReplyDelete
For every medium there is an expression, and for every expression there is a medium. Those images are powerful and riveting. Nice find Teresa.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Steven. It's great fun to discover someone new and all the creative ways in which we can express ourselves.ReplyDelete
DJan, I have had such a good time learning about these prints and their creator. Their detail draws me in.ReplyDelete
They are indeed, fine images and there is a feeling of balance and harmony about them. And that makes a pretty good landscape for a dream.ReplyDelete
He was a genius. Reminds me to look out for an exhibition or a book. Each one is so different and so wonderful. You can see the roots of the work of some of the manga artists, I was specially thinking of Tezuka.ReplyDelete
I saw that segment on 60 minutes. Was riveting! It was amazing anyone survived. The hydrangea shoots--ahh!ReplyDelete
Woodcut printing is a precise skill. I watched a program years ago and I believe that they have to cut separate woodcuts for each color and then manage to print them perfectly on top of the last one. Isn't that what birthed lithography? Of course, he could have printed the picture in black and white and then painted in the various colors afterwards, too. Now you have me wondering what technique he used. ;)
I have seen the Great Wave, but nothing else by him. Didn't know it was a woodcut print and had mistakenly thought it was a gongbi painting. I have learned something again from you...several things.
Your dream was fascinating. I have often dreamt about being in other time periods, but never being in an actual picture or painting I had seen. Wow!
Have a wonderful Wednesday, Teresa! :)
Beautiful Beautiful Images.I Love The Idea Of Green Shoots Growing Through Rubble.Life Crops Up In The Most Unexpected Places.ReplyDelete
Alan, It was an interesting dream. Yes, the images around me had a very peaceful feeling, balanced and harmonious, exactly. It was their quiet resiliency that came through for some reason. It's a fine lesson for me to have received in such an interesting way.ReplyDelete
Jenny, there does seem to be an interesting history behind these and thus leading, I suppose to the present. I have a hole in my knowledge and understanding of manga artists. Anime and graphically illustrated novels I've yet to explore. Thank you for piquing my curiosity.ReplyDelete
Hi Rita, Well, now you have me curious. I know nothing about gongbi painting. This is new territory for me. They are beautiful, elegant images, that's all I know. I'm going to have to do more reading, I can see. :)ReplyDelete
Lithographs and giclee probably did arise from these earlier printmaking skills. One thing always leading to another....
I have a sneaking suspicion that more colorful piece (next to the last one I posted)has been enhanced. The colors are almost too bright, but I couldn't resist it, it's so beautifully executed in its detail.
I have dreams in other time periods, as well. This wasn't the first time I've dreamt of being inside a painting. It's an interesting experience and I always learn something from them.
Thanks for your comments and Have a great day!
Tony, Life persists. It's a good thing to remember.ReplyDelete
Thanks for stopping by!
Each picture of Hokusai is like a poem. Maybe that's why they were in your dreams. You love poetry.
They are very much like poems, Grethe. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Stunning. Cultures sometime teach an appreciation for the beauty of the day. Ours does not.ReplyDelete
Hi Cletis, Ours seems to be woefully lacking in that regard. If we taught appreciation for beauty, perhaps it would crowd out all the ugly noise.ReplyDelete
I am given hope hearing of how the man smiled at the hydrangea shoot. Our planet's ability to spring back in the wake of destruction shows in both the natural world and in its creatures, including its kooky, far-straying-from-the-balance creatures, los seres humanos nosotros - us human beans.ReplyDelete
Of course, we humans spoil it, too.
Art redeems, though. These wood cuts as you say so meticulous to undertake help us get back to the balance - the process of honoring through honest portrayal.
I find woodcuts so amazing, too. An English wood engraver and ornithologist Thomas Bewick who lived 200 years ago is one I recommend learning about.
Cirrelda, I'm so glad you visited this post. Thank you for the thought of "honoring through honest portrayal," and for the suggestion of Thomas Bewick. I'm always looking for new artists with whom I can get acquainted.ReplyDelete
Yes, art redeems.
Human beans: when I was a child, I would sometimes get frustrated with my siblings and say, "I'm a human bean, too." :)