japonisme: la vie en rose

14 July 2009

la vie en rose

The passion for mountains and mountaineering has a long tradition among Japanese printmakers. The ascetic Hiroshi Yoshida is maybe the most famous one. He was a passionate mountaineer and world traveler who had portrayed his personal experience in many woodblock prints of mountain landscapes.

During his short stop-over in Europe Hiroshi Yoshida had made sketches for two famous prints of mountain views in Switzerland - Mt. Matterhorn at daylight and a second version at night time - both made in 1925.

His son Toshi Yoshida had inherited his father's love for the mountains. Also quite a few of the sosaku hanga artists were avid trekkers like the arduous Azechi Umetaro or the less ambitious hiker Masao Maeda ("The finest panoramas are down in the middle heights.").

Passionate hikers and mountaineers know that each mountain region has its own individual character. A mountain landscape in Nepal is different from Switzerland. And the mountains in South Tyrol have their own specific personality. 1

katatsuburi soro-soro nobore fuji no yama

little snail
inch by inch, climb
Mount Fuji!

The highest and most sacred of Japan's peaks, Mount Fuji, was the home of the great kami-sama or gods. Buddhists believed it was a mystical gateway between earth and heaven. Climbing it was a sacred pilgrimage. However, not everyone could make the climb. Therefore, imitation Mount Fujis (small, sculpted hills) were built at various temples so that one could reap spiritual benefit by climbing them. Issa's snail is climbing one of these pseudo-mountains. 2

it fascinates me, how if an artist is about to represent a mountain range, they will often focus on the same peak. as in the grand canyon. here is the astonishing 'horn' of the 'matter' (meadow) -- it's unmistakable. then there's the awfully similar 'yari' (spear) gataga (mountain). and the two-peaked landmark in the jungfraubahn (young woman's way).

and how similar are the styles of the western posters and the eastern prints.
were the aims of both as similar as they might seem? as we've seen, many of the prints coming out of japan, particularly during the meiji era, were 'selling' a japan of the past. and the travel posters were often selling similar dreams as well.

it has been said, Switzerland doesn’t exist but is rather an invention of the Swiss graphic designers. 4 as long as dreams sell better than reality, i guess the world will continue to be rendered for us in rose.

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Blogger Dominic Bugatto said...

Everytime I see a Yoshida image on your blog I'm always compelled to revisit my book on his work. It's always inspirational.

21 July, 2009 11:36  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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