Thursday, January 7, 2016

Essential Nature --- Day 4/332

Walk: Clement Street
Distance: 1 mile (Marin driving day)

Haystack, sunset, 1891, Claude MONET, 1840-1926, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts
Claude Monet (French 1840-1926), Haystack, sunset, 1891, oil on canvas
South Wind, Clear Dawn
Katsushika Hokusai (Japanese 1760-1849), South Wind, Clear Dawn, ca 1830-5, Woodblock Print

Revisiting yesterday's theme of the influence of Japanese prints on Claude Monet's art, Ciwt finds many fine, illustrative comparisons.  Perhaps the finest of all is that between the two works above.  

The first, Hokusai's luminous, geometric, asymmetrical South Wind, Clear Dawn, is arguably one of the most recognizable Japanese woodblock prints.  Completed ten years before Monet's birth and when Hokusai was in his seventies, it one of his series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. Popularly known as Red Fuji, the image containing no people or animals and simplified to near abstraction captures the elemental power of Fuji and, beyond that, the mystery of nature.

Monet, who liked to present himself as the artist who brought the Western world's attention to Japanese prints* was clearly sitting at Hokusai's metaphorical feet in his Haystack series. In fact, Red Fuji was hung prominently in his 'small salon' at Giverny.  Both Haystack, sunset and Red Fuji, express a unique vision of the deep structural forces of nature, but, at the same time, one senses a profound affinity between the works.  

*Living in the Netherlands, first crossroads of the art market with the Far East, thanks to the Dutch East Indies Company, Vincent van Gogh, was actually the earliest prominent artist to discover Japanese woodblocks and engravings.  He was fascinated, loved the daring compositions immediately and bought his first Japanese works around 1855 and shortly after wrote his brother Theo: "My workshop is rather bearable, especially since I pinned to the walls a whole collection of Japanese engravings which I like extremely."

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