THE GREAT WAVE AND 45 OTHER JAPANESE LANDSCAPE PRINTS
Landscapes are shown in a realistic way on Japanese woodblocks. Nature is shown beautifully but without sentimentality. Large landscape prints have been selected for an exhibition in the Stadshal of the Centre Céramique, Avenue Céramique 50 in Maastricht from 25 June until 26 August 2006.
Landscapes with anonymous people
The Great Wave by Hokusai is the most famous Japanese print, an icon. An enormous surfer’s wave breaks down on little men in rapid boats. A frightening grip seems to reach towards the men, but the flood lacks the gigantic volume of a tsunami. The event occurs in the narrow of Tokyo Bay. Mount Fuji can be seen in the middle. The print is an authentic reproduction, because the printing blocks have been recut after the original. A remarkable feature is the doubled size.
Dutchmen were the only foreigners who were allowed to visit Japan for centuries. They gave illustrated books about Dutch landscape art to the Shogun. This way Western art could have a deep influence on Hokusai and Hiroshige.
When American gunboats opened Japan during the 1850's, woodblocks became freely available. This way Japanese woodcuts could become fashionable and gain a strong effect on Western art. The impact on the impressionists is best known. Van Gogh wished to become as good as Hiroshige!
When Western art moved away from realistic landscapes, the Shin Hanga movement returned to traditional woodblock art in Japan during the twentieth century. Kawase Hasui was a main representative. His image of a village in front of Mount Fuji is shown above. The trees in the snow seem to be painted. Black lines have become less prominent on the prints than in the previous century. The size is double oban or 34 x 47 cm.
Landscapes with men and animals in the centre
When living beings appear on the prints, stories can be reported. Taiso Yoshitoshi was a great storyteller. He illustrated well-known tales about battles, demons and ghosts. Eight rare diptychs are shown on the exhibition.
A triptych by Kiyochika demonstrates the absurdity of war. Soldiers are lined up in the middle of nowhere. They are inspected by officers in the falling snow. Actually, the troops have landed near Wei-Hai-Wei during the Sino-Japanese war. Later Chinese ships will be destroyed in the nearby harbor.
Toshi Yoshida pictured animals in landscapes on large prints. Two white herons are dancing on the shown woodcut. They seem to promise each other eternal love, while the snow falls heavily. The dance of white herons is celebrated in Japan.
Paul Jacoulet was a gay woodblock artist from French descend. He depicted the beautiful bodies of a Polynesian chief and his slave. Critics wondered if the servant was a sex slave. A scandal was born, but the print remained allowed.