The National Art Museum of Romania Shows Hokusai’s Mount Fuji Views In Solidarity With the Japanese People
Bucharest.- As a demonstration of support for the Japanese people in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami, the National Art Museum of Romania has organised a special exhibition of Katsushika Hokusai’s Mount Fuji prints entitled “Pilgrimage to Mount Fuji: Katsushika Hokusai engravings”. The exhibition opens on Thursday, April 28 at the National Art Museum of Romania (MNAR), 49-53, Victoriei Street in Bucharest. During the exhibition the full “Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji”, plus the additional ten later added by the artist, will be on view. Alongside the Hokusai works, 38 pieces of the best early twentieth century Romanian print making from the museum’s colleciton will be exhibited. The exhibition will run until July 31st.
Katsushika Hokusai (October or November 1760 – May 10, 1849) was a Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period. In his time, he was Japan’s leading expert on Chinese painting. Born in Edo (now Tokyo), Hokusai is best-known as author of the woodblock print series “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” which includes the internationally recognized print, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, created during the 1820s. Hokusai was known by at least 30 names during his lifetime. Although the use of multiple names was a common practice of Japanese artists of the time, the numbers of names he used far exceeds that of any other major Japanese artist. At the age of 12, he was sent by his father to work in a bookshop and lending library, a popular type of institution in Japanese cities, where reading books made from wood-cut blocks was a popular entertainment of the middle and upper classes.
At 14, he became an apprentice to a wood-carver, where he worked until the age of 18, whereupon he was accepted into the studio of Katsukawa Shunsho. Shunsho was an artist of ukiyo-e, a style of wood block prints and paintings that Hokusai would master, and head of the so-called Katsukawa school. Ukiyo-e, as practiced by artists like Shunsho, focused on images of the courtesans and Kabuki actors who were popular in Japan’s cities at the time. After a year, Hokusai’s name changed for the first time, when he was dubbed Shunro by his master. It was under this name that he published his first prints, a series of pictures of Kabuki actors published in 1779. During the decade he worked in Shunsho’s studio, Hokusai was married to his first wife, about whom very little is known except that she died in the early 1790s. He would marry again in 1797, although this second wife also died after a short time. He fathered two sons and three daughters with these two wives, and his youngest daughter Sakae, also known as Oi, eventually became an artist like her father.
Upon the death of Shunsho in 1793, Hokusai began exploring other styles of art, including European styles he was exposed to through French and Dutch copper engravings he was able to acquire. He was soon expelled from the Katsukawa school by Shunko, the chief disciple of Shunsho, possibly due to studies at the rival Kan school. This event was, in his own words, inspirational: “What really motivated the development of my artistic style was the embarrassment I suffered at Shunko’s hands.”
Hokusai also changed the subjects of his works, moving away from the images of courtesans and actors that were the traditional subjects of ukiyo-e. Instead, his work became focused on landscapes and images of the daily life of Japanese people from a variety of social levels. This change of subject was a breakthrough in ukiyo-e and in Hokusai’s career. “Fireworks at Ryogoku Bridge” (1790) dates from this period of Hokusai’s life. In 1811, at the age of 51, Hokusai changed his name to Taito and entered the period in which he created the Hokusai Manga and various etehon, or art manuals. These etehon, beginning in 1812 with Quick Lessons in Simplified Drawing, served as a convenient way to make money and attract more students. The first book of Hokusai’s manga, sketches or caricatures that influenced the modern form of comics known by the same name, was published in 1814. Together, his 12 volumes of manga published before 1820 and three more published posthumously include thousands of drawings of animals, religious figures, and everyday people. They often have humorous overtones, and were very popular at the time. In 1820, Hokusai changed his name yet again, this time to “Iitsu,” a change which marked the start of a period in which he secured fame as an artist throughout Japan (though, given Japan’s isolation from the outside world during his lifetime, his fame overseas came after his death). It was during the 1820s that Hokusai reached the peak of his career.
His most famous work, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, including the famous Great Wave off Kanagawa, dated from this period. It proved so popular that Hokusai later added ten more prints to the series. Hokusai created the “Thirty-Six Views” both as a response to a domestic travel boom and as part of a personal obsession with Mount Fuji. It was this series, specifically “The Great Wave” print and “Fuji in Clear Weather”, that secured Hokusai’s fame both within Japan and overseas. While Hokusai’s work prior to this series is certainly important, it was not until this series that he gained broad recognition and left a lasting impact on the art world. It was also “The Great Wave” print that initially received, and continues to receive, acclaim and popularity in the Western world. Among the other popular series of prints he published during this time are “A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces” and “Unusual Views of Celebrated Bridges in the Provinces”. He also began producing a number of detailed individual images of flowers and birds, including the extraordinarily detailed “Poppies” and “Flock of Chickens”. In 1839, disaster struck as a fire destroyed Hokusai’s studio and much of his work. By this time, his career was beginning to wane as younger artists such as Ando Hiroshige became increasingly popular. But Hokusai never stopped painting, and completed Ducks in a Stream at the age of 87. Constantly seeking to produce better work, he apparently exclaimed on his deathbed, “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years… Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.” He died on May 10, 1849, and was buried at the Seikyo-ji in Tokyo (Taito Ward).
The National Museum of Art of Romania hosts three art galleries and has a short, but impressive royal past. The European Art Gallery, the Romanian Medieval Art Gallery and the Romanian Modern Art Gallery bring together art works exhibited in an attractive, modern manner, thus turning a visit to the museum into an enjoyable and instructive way of spending time. The National Museum of Art of Romania is located in the former royal palace in Revolution Square, central Bucharest, Romania, completed in 1937. It features notable collections of medieval and modern Romanian art, as well as the international collection assembled by the Romanian royal family. The museum was damaged during the 1989 Romanian Revolution that led to the downfall of Nicolae Ceaucescu. In 2000, part of the museum reopened to the public, housing the modern Romanian collection and the international collection. The comprehensive Medieval art collection, which now features works salvaged from monasteries destroyed during the Ceaucescu era, reopened in spring 2002.
There are also two halls that house temporary exhibits. The modern Romanian collection features sculptures by Constantin Brâncusi and Dimitrie Paciurea, as well as paintings by Theodor Aman, Nicolae Grigorescu, Theodor Pallady, Gheorghe Petrascu, and Gheorghe Tattarescu. In 2007, after almost six months of redecoration works, the European Art Gallery was reopened to the public on June, 21st. Important art works that have been recently restored are on display again, including “The Annunciation” by Tintoretto, “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Bernardino Licinio, “Venus and Cupid by” Lucas Cranach the Elder and “The Triumph of the Virgin Surrounded by Angels” by Pedro Campaña. The museum also took the opportunity provided by the redecoration works to rehang the galleries, providing a first opportunity to see other important works including “Hercule’s Fight with the Centaurus Nessus” by Luca Giordano, “The Holy Family” by Giorgio Vasari, “Jacob’s Escape” by Jean Tassel, “Jesus and the Penitent Sinners” credited to Anton van Dyck, and “Virgin and Child” by Francesco Raibolini (called Il Francia). Visit the museum’s website at … http://www.mnar.arts.ro
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