Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Hokusai and Hiroshige

Wondering through Barna, I stumbled upon this exhibition at la Pedrera of Japanese wood prints from the Ukiyo-e school (Edo period, 17-19th centuries). Brought to the light from the dusty shelves of Bibliotheque Nationale de France, these prints are incredible in their mastery of execution and strong feelings they manage to convey with a lightness of a pen stroke. They create an atmosphere of refinement and fantasy, and are based on totally different premises than art in the West.

Two painters that both worked in the first half of the 19th century summerized the beauty of this trend, derived from caligraphy, and that has a distant relation to symbolism and romanticism that was going on in Europe at the same time : Hokusai and Hiroshige.

Hokusai, who started painting at around six, and used over thirty different names during his life, is most famous for his series of thirty six views of Mount Fuji. The sacred Japanese vulcano obsessed him like lillies, hay stacks or cathedrals did Monet. He also published a very famous book of Mangas (12 voloumes of comic sketches) that has influeced modern Japanese manga production.

Hiroshige became famous soon after Hokusai and continued ukiyo-e tradition after Hokusai died. Hiroshige, a favorite of Van Gogh´s and other impressionists, started first as a royal fireman, and devoted his life to art the year Hokusai published his series of Mount Fuji views. One of his most famous work is a series illustrating his journey from Edo to Kiyoto, the so called Tocaido road. More of this series here.

In a nutshell, the exhibition is definitely worth a stop, it is still on until September 14th, and it is free!

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