Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rainy Day in San Francisco - and rain in the Japanese print

Rain as a motif in ukiyo-e prints was often shown as a series of black or gray lines to represent swirling gusts, heavy downpours, or gentle drops. It was most beautifully evoked in the prints of Hiroshige, particularly Night Rain on the Karasaki Pine (see previous post ), in which the dark band of clouds seems to have opened up and released a torrent. Dark bands of color in the sky, most often seen at the top of the sheet for a graded effect, were created with a technique called bokashi, in which the printer hand-wiped pigment onto the block. This method is seen again in two of Hiroshige’s famous prints of rainstorms, Evening Squall at Shon and Evening Rain at Atake on the Great Bridge (see below).


Ando Hiroshige. Other names used: Utagawa (Ando), Tokutaro, Jubei, Juemon, Tokubei, Ichiyasai, Ichiryusai, Ryusai, Tokaido, Utashige. This  last major master of the Ukiyo-e School was born in 1797, son of an Edo fire warden. He succeeded to his father hereditary post early but in 1811 entered the studio of the ukiyo-e master Utagawa Toyohiro, soon receiving the artist name Hiroshige. His first published work, in the field of book illustration, dates from 1818; during the following decade H. published capable work in the field of figure prints: actors, warriors and girls. From the year 1831 he began (under the influence of the great Hokusai) the series of landscape prints that were to make his name: Fifty three Stations of the Tokaido, and later, Famous Views of Japan, Famous Views of Kyoto, Eight views of Lake Biwa, Sixtynine Stations of the Kiso-kaido Highway.  Though not the prodigious eccentric that Hokusai was, H. nevertheless made a large contribution to the development of the landscape print, as well as to the field of flower-and-bird prints (these revealing his inclination toward the Kyoto Shijo School more than toward ukiyo-e).   In effect, H. consolidated the landscape form and adapted it to popular taste, thereby diffusing the form to all strata of society. But eventually this also led to overproduction and declining standards of quality. At his best, however, H. was a master of the impressionist, poetic view of nature, and he remains the best-loved of all Japanese artists.  Among his pupils were Hiroshige II, Shigekatsu, Shigekiyo and Hiroshige III.  (Wikipedia)

The Japanese Print in the Era of Impressionism (now showing at the Legion)

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