Hokusai's Mount Fuji: The Complete Views in Color Hardcover – Jun 1 2007
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About the Author
Jocelyn Bouquillard is curator at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in the Photography and Prints department. He is an expert in Japanese prints and his specialty is in landscape prints.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This also makes several statements about Japanese culture, from the humble pit-saw workers (p.57) and rice millers to elegant geishas or daimyo and his retinue. Behind all the bustle of life or terror of the seas (as in the famous "Great Wave"), there stands Mt. Fuji. Silent and eternal, it's almost hidden in many of the pictures. I've never seen Fuji in person, but it reminds me of Mt. Rainier as seen from the Seattle area - it seems to pop from nowhere as I turn a corner, looming and massive despite its distance. And, like the many views of Fuji shown here, Ranier looks different with every angle and every shift of light or weather. Hokusai conveys all that variability, permanence, and immanence, but also conveys a reverence for Fuji that a Western mind can't wholly encompass.
Brief descriptions help identify each scene and comment on its composition without dominating the imagery. I recommend this highly, as a segment of Hojusai's ouvre, as a world class sample of print-making, or just as a book of pictures.
Looking through the entire series of plates (each with concise commentaries), one immediately notices how the eye is instantly drawn to the iconic shape of Mount Fuji, which appears in different sizes and locations. From this one fixed focal point, the rest of the picture can be taken in, understood, and personally interpreted. Under luminous, multi-colored skies, Hokusai reproduces landscapes and architecture with mind-bogglingly intricate detail. One also notices how relatively insignificant the human figures (even when depicted in the foreground) appear when compared with their milieu, almost as if their placement is coincidental and only included for realistic accuracy. People appear more prominently in the later prints, but even then are mostly shown with their backs to the viewer, looking away indifferently, or with faces obscured by hats. Nature, weather, light, atmosphere, and the omnipresent form of Mount Fuji dominate each picture's panorama. In five instances, the print has been greatly enlarged to show more detail. Beyond a preface and three brief introductory essays, this book provides very little verbage, allowing the prints to speak for themselves. The commentaries are helpful in drawing the viewer's attention to details they might have missed, but thankfully are not integral to one's enjoyment of this book.
The plates reproduced in this book are taken from three collections in the French National Library. We're told that the finest impressions have been selected, but picky purchasers should be forewarned that no reproduction (especially one from over a century ago) is perfect, and smudges, creases, printing blotches, and fold-marks can be seen on almost every page. While readily apparent, these miniscule distractions did not ruin the book for this reader. One reproduction quibble I would like to raise involves borders: some of the prints have a complete white border on all four sides, some have a white border at the top and bottom only, and some take up the entire page and bleed over onto the facing page. I have no idea what influenced these artistic-editorial decisions, but they do not interfere with the viewer's enjoyment. While a little more uniformity would have been appreciated, I can still highly recommend this wonderful book to those who enjoy Japanese landscape art/ukiyo-e.
The pictures are all small. Many of them are blur and cropped. The quality of reprint is unacceptable for an art book.
I've got Melanie Trede's Hiroshige's "100 Views of Edo" for $100. But that one is wayyyyyyyyyyyyy much better than this book!
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