I had the pleasure of seeing the Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Art’s touring show of Hokusai prints in Nagoya. The exhibition features many early works as well as his most well-recognized The Great Wave off Kanagawa, 1832, and Red Fuji, 1832.
It was really interested in the use of dimensions in the prints. Art History education (at least in my experience in Canada) tends to emphasize (and praise) the use of light and dark, like the flickering light of French Impressionist paintings or the deep contrasts of Italian Renaissance chiaroscuro. It’s a shame that this emphasis results in overlooking a lot of really important art, like Hokusai’s, as my classes barely touched on anything outside of Europe. Print makers like Hokusai use light and dark in an entirely different way: creating shapes, areas, and outlines of different shades. I was really intrigued by his portrayal of clouds: flat white space with almost rigid black outlines. Not necessarily the image that comes to mind when thinking of fluffy clouds. Yet these images don’t leave any confusion as to what they are and, to me at least, offer a strong sense of cloudiness.
The museum itself as a partnership between Nagoya and the Boston Museum of Art- which sends pieces from its collection for two exhibitions a year. This was actually the first time I’ve been to a museum of this nature, where a permanent collection was not he focus of the museum, but rather dedicated to traveling exhibitions. It seems like a great way to give people the opportunity to see art they might not otherwise have. Although, I can’t imagine the stress these curators experience transporting so many works halfway across the world.
The exhibition will continue to travel to Kobe, Kitakyushu, and Tokyo. The official website can be found here.