While looking for some Victorian line drawings and patterns I stumbled over a book from 1860 that is filled with dozens of prints of mid-19th Century Japanese printed and patterned fabrics. Copyrights have expired for both United States and Japanese copyrights according to the research I did.
I have attached titles to the works that are entirely my own. While some traditional Japanese styles of representation just do not grab me, the sense of pattern and whimsy that is so often found in the detail of the images or on painted fabrics and household decorations delight me to no end.
The titles given to these images in the included captions below are mine.
I have always loved turtles, and I hope the great Turtle Goddess forgives me for once eating soup from what may have been an endangered turtle. It was a Christmas Feast generously and graciously put together and hosted by a restaurant owner in Playa de Humacao for the group of monkey watchers who lived near their restaurant. The group included a professor whom they considered an adopted daughter. One does not ask about ingredients, even if you are, as I was at the time, a vegetarian. I did manage to skip roast goat served at a wedding party a few weeks later.
Anyway, I love the simple pattern that capture the essence of “turtle” for me.
Similarly the whimsy of the birds incorporating themselves into the pattern of the flowers is clever and something that has a very contemporary feel to it. As I look at more and more images from the 19th Century I realize there is nothing new under the sun, only variations on a theme.
Japanese themes capture iconic images in ways at which I can only marvel. The 2008 economic turmoil for me, for example, was perfectly illustrated by The Great Wave which I chose to illustrate an article I wrote for a client. The client felt the image was too negative. I thought it showed the fierce determination of the persons in the boats who were navigating the wave. The best images are open to interpretation and allow us to put our own understanding into them.
I was fortunate to be able to see an exhibition of Hokusai entitled, “Beyond the Great Wave, Hoskusai’s Images of Mount Fuji” at the Art Instititute of Chicago this summer. The Great Wave is probably the best known image from Japanese Art in the west. I recommend checking out the online information about the exhibit to learn more about Hokusai, his famous imagery and a bit more about Japanese art.