The exhibit is very informative about the development of the Japanese print over two centuries (1700-1900) and its influence on Western art with its three sections: Evolution, Essence and Influence. A special education gallery within the exhibition shows a video about how prints are made - from making paper to printing. The “artist studio” includes three stations of an artist, a carver and a printer with woodblocks, tools, and preparatory drawings. A display of progressive color prints over wood plates demonstrates the process of designing, carving and printing color woodcuts. As usual I like the most a picture in the middle of the process and not the finished one. I prefer to have something left to the imagination.
The exhibit does a lot to evoke a sense of wonder and appreciation about this old art technique and precise craftsmanship. I was surprised to discover that it takes three people – one artist and two craftsmen - to produce a print. I wouldn’t mind to be that artist… Prints are done in brilliant colors with sophisticated compositions and in variety of subjects.
One print struck me with its straightforward image. A couple is making love. Both are partially nude but not because of modesty or shame but rather to be warm in a chilly bedroom. Nothing is hidden, obscure, and subtle or has a double meaning. The scene is clear and detailed but at the same time it’s sensual, passionate, intimate and poetic.
I told my girlfriend from Indonesia about this print and my impressions of it. She wasn’t amazed as I was and she said “In the East love it celebrated”. It definitely shows. I haven’t seen anything like this in the Western art. It’s an inspiring and beautiful art piece to keep in a bedroom.
“A Couple Making Love”, detail, by Katsushika Hokusai, ca. 1814