冬景色 (Winter Landscape)

Designer: Katsushika Hokusai | Carver: David Bull | Printer: Yasue Tsushima

Paper size: 21.8cm by 16cm | Enlargement | Shipping Code: [M] ? | Currency: $ / £ /

Price: $ 65.00£ 52.50€ 59.75

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Description: This image is from one of Hokusai's 'picture' books - the Hokusai Gafu, published in Nagoya in 1849. Hokusai has always been extremely popular, so nearly all the books and prints of his we now find are so badly printed as to bring no pleasure in the viewing, but a couple of years ago I got a note from a book dealer in Italy who thought I might be interested in a clean and clear copy he had, and he was right! It was a bit expensive, but I knew that it would provide good 'hunting' for images for my reproduction work. And so it has ...

I can understand why a book full of pictures like this one is attractive to us nowadays; they are interesting images of a long ago and far away time. But just what did the original viewers - the people of Nagoya in 1849 - see in a book like that? It can't have been nostalgic for them in any way at all. To find the answer, we have to remind ourselves of one of the major differences between our life today and theirs back then - we are surrounded by imagery all day long, everywhere we turn: newspapers, TV, magazines, movies, books, pictures on the wall ... You and I have each probably seen literally hundreds of images today. But people back then did not have this 'parade' of pictures constantly in front of their eyes. Indeed, for most people in that era, to see an artificial image must have been quite an unusual event. I can easily believe that a Hokusai illustration like this was thus capable of actually carrying them into the scene, much like a movie does to us here in our own day. During the time we are looking at it, reality stands suspended, and we become part of the world depicted there. Just how strong such a feeling was for them I cannot imagine, but judging by the popularity of such books in those days, I think it must have been considerable.

We ourselves can of course never capture such a feeling any more from just a simple image - unless we were to lock ourself in a cave for a year to escape all the pictures that bombard us. Perhaps only then could we see this one the way that it was meant to be seen ... Our eyes would start at the pathway in the lower left corner, and would carry us step by step as we zigzagged our way past the villages and through the lanes in the countryside, then eventually right up to the invisible top of Fuji in the background.

Just splashes of pigment on a sheet of paper - but actually an entry into another world. It worked for people in 1849 - I hope you can make it work for you too!

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