Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pictures of the Floating World

This is a nineteenth century Japanese woodcut of the green grocer's arsonist daughter, Oshichi, by Utugawa.  Oshichi is character from the Edo period in the seventeenth century.  Legend has it that she fell in love with a temple page she met during a fire and started another fire thinking she would see her love again.  She was caught and burned at the stake.
It's from the Library of Congress collection of pre-1915 woodprints.  One could do a very beautiful blog reposting images from any one of the LOC's collections.  The WPA/Dorothea Lange stuff is among the most notable, but there are thousands of noteworthy images. 
I love the historical photos, but these Japanese woodcuts really thrill me.  I love the patterns and the use of space.  The term floating world refers to the ethereal topics of the prints.  I wonder if it also refers to the floating images in the composition as well.  I will try to do some research.  I remember learning a bit about these in Art History, but the focus seemed to be more on their influence on Modern painters such as Cezanne, Matisse and van Gogh.  I don't know, they didn't turn me on back then as they do now.

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