2/4 2010

Hiroshige

Categorized under Art, Writings by Dave

I was in a used book store in Manhattan last month and stumbled upon a small book from the 1960s about Hiroshige, one of the last great Japanese ukiyo-e, or woodblock painters. It wasn’t that I instantly recognized any of the paintings inside the book, but more that they seemed familiar to me in a different way.

Hiroshige and his fellow artists in this genre painted on transparent rice paper which was then traced onto a woodblock by an assistant. Each color was then cut out with a blade by a different craftsmen, creating a complex layer of woodblocks that would be used like a stamp to create lots of prints of the same painting. These type of prints often showed landscapes and were popular with the common people in Japan (this is the 1800s we’re talking about).

I like the idea that Hiroshige’s work was only really seen as an impression, a reflection of a painting filtered through the eyes and hands of many different artists, only to end up interpreted in as many different ways as the number of people who bought his prints.



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