Press Release | Egenolf Gallery Japanese Prints
IFPDA Fine Print Fair October 25-29, 2018 | Booth #314
Contact: Veronica Miller [email protected] 818.621.6246
Embracing Earth and Sky: Trees in Japanese Prints
A standout of this year’s Print Fair is Hiroshige’s (1797-1858) Plum Estate, Kameido, from 1857. One of the most recognizable Japanese prints in the world, it was brought to renown in the west by Van Gogh, who painted a copy (or homage) in oils in 1887, based on a tracing of this design in his own collection. This work shows a dramatically cropped and intimate view of the “Sleeping Dragon Plum” tree, the most famous tree in old Tokyo (Edo). The depiction of cropped tree trunks appeared in Van Gogh’s oeuvre until the end of his life, and the impact of Japanese prints on his work and life are difficult to overstate. The 2018 “Van Gogh and Japan” exhibition (and associated catalogue) at the Van Gogh Museum elucidates this connection in detail.
The late 19th century artist Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) is known as the “Master of Night”. This 1880 scene of steamboats along the river (Gohonmatsu Amenotsuki) shows his fascination with the effects of western technology on the Japanese as they convert to modern lighting. The protective silhouette of the tree contrasts the pre-industrial natural beauty of Japan with the coming shift to mechanization and industrialization.
This 1927 work by Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950) shows an evening scene along the Chikugo River. The trees are printed in a unique manner that gives them the illusion of movement, seeming to wave in the breeze. The mastery of the printers as well as the carvers of Japanese prints has never been equaled, and the system supporting the many years of apprenticeship to learn these crafts has largely disappeared.
Widely considered Bertha Lum’s (1864-1954) finest design, this is her only view of California. Green trees and shrubs cling to the top of a rocky cliff on Point Lobos, 1920. Everything is abstracted yet at the same time representational, with a strong feeling of art nouveau.
Also featured is this monumental High Treetop (A), 1976, by Joichi Hoshi (1913-1979). Hoshi devised a unique technique to capture the spiritual qualities of trees using woodblocks, gold leaf and oil paints. Just as intimate a view as Hiroshige’s masterpiece, we feel the connection to nature that the Japanese are renowned for.