Saturday, July 08, 2006


while sick this past week, i had a lot of time to sit around and reflect. as you've already read, i played and thought a lot about the cats. but i also had a chance to pick up my big book of hokusai, a famous late 18th, early 19th century japanese artist.

hokusai was a genius. his art and literature are fantastic, and he was constantly learning and exploring new themes. he worked up until he died, and is quoted on his deathbed as saying "If Heaven had lent me but five years more, I would have become a great painter." of course, he was fantastic. you probably recognize the woodcut at the top, one from his series on mount fuji.

i started reading all the fascinating articles in my hokusai art book. i usually just look at the prints, but i must encourage people to read the articles themselves.. they are so enlightening and fun! one article touched on hokusai's difficulties with his publisher. hokusai sent some woodcuts to his publisher, who would get them made by professional craftsmen. now the quality of these works is a function not only of what hokusai produces, but what the mastercraftsmen do in their shops. i guess hokusai had been burned one too many times, and so he sent this amusing letter to his publisher, constantly dropping the name of this one craftsman who he thought would do the job splendidly... hokusai even went so far as to say that he wasn't in cahoots with this craftsman (ie taking a cut when the publisher chose that craftsman because hokusai made it happen) but in fact loved his work. i'll add some quotes here when i get home.

here are some prints (i especially like the "small flowers" and "large flowers" series, but i couldn't find many of those online):

Poppies and Yellow Butterfly, 1833-34

The Ghost Kohada Koheiji

1 comment:

twm said...

Wow! So delicate looking. Funnily enough, I was just looking through a book on Shibori techniques (Japanese dye resist). What I really love about japanese art & craft is their attention to detail - and how refined their craft becomes and also how the country treasures the people who do the craft. There was a great article in the New Yorker last year about a kimono painter by Judith Thurman. And there was an article in the food issue about artisinal tofu. And I always think about Japanese pottery too when i think of japanese craft.