Monday, January 1, 2018

Fine Wind, Clear Morning

from: Wikipedia

Japanese: 凱風快晴, Japanese: Gaifū kaisei  Colour print of a mountain  Artist  Katsushika Hokusai  Year  c. 1830–32  Type Ukiyo-e woodblock print  Dimensions 25.72 cm × 38 cm (10.125 in × 15 in)

Fine Wind, Clear Morning (Japanese: 凱風快晴 Gaifū kaisei), also known as South Wind, Clear Sky or Red Fuji, is a wood block print by Japanese artist Hokusai (1760–1849), part of his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series, dating from c. 1830 to 1832. The work has been described as "one of the simplest and at the same time one of the most outstanding of all Japanese prints".

In early autumn when, as the title specifies, the wind is southerly and the sky is clear, the rising sun can turn Mount Fuji red. Hokusai captures this moment with compositional abstraction but meteorological specificity, especially when compared to the rest of the series. The three shades of deepening blue of the sky mirror the three hues of the mountain. The lingering remnants of snow at the peak of the mountain and dark shadows encompassing the forest at its base place it very precisely in time. Mount Fuji's solidly symmetrical shape on the right half of the image is balanced by the delicate clouds to the left, for a striking composition.

Early impression of Hokusai's Red Fuji

The earliest impressions appear faded when compared to the versions usually seen, but are closer to Hokusai's original conception. The original prints have a deliberately uneven blue sky, which increases the sky's brightness and gives movement to the clouds. The peak is brought forward with a halo of Prussian blue. 

Subsequent prints have a strong, even blue tone and the printer added a new block, overprinting the white clouds on the horizon with light blue. Later prints also typically employ a strong benigara (Bengal red) pigment, which lent the painting its common name of Red Fuji. The green block colour was recut, lowering the meeting point between forest and mountain slope.
Variant impression

An alternative impression of the print was made with a completely different colour-scheme. In this version the clouds are only just visible in the upper portion. The sky is a mostly rendered in a flat pale blue with a thin strip of grey at the top, and a graduated strip of Prussian blue along the horizon which extends up the slope of the mountain.

Variant impression

This print and Hokusai's other masterpiece from his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, are perhaps the most widely recognized pieces of Japanese art in the world. Both are superb examples of the Japanese art of Ukiyo-e, "pictures of the floating world". Although Ukiyo-e can depict anything from contemporary city life to classical literature, and Hokusai's notebooks show that his own interests spanned an equally wide range, it was landscapes like this that earned him his fame. The saturated colors and stylized forms in such prints helped inspire the Impressionist and Post-impressionist movements decades later.

Gaifü Kaisei (literally, clear day with a southern breeze) is commonly known as Mount Fuji at Dawn, or the shorter Red Fuji. Here the mountain rises in the right third of the composition, extending in a long ridge to the left bottom. The base is covered densely with trees, here reduced to tiny dots. Among the many works depicting Mount Fuji, none surpasses this powerful and pleasant rendering. 

It is said that Fuji takes on a red color in early morning and around sunset. It looks best when bright red, which occurs under special conditions when many small, undulating clouds float in the clear sky. The abundance of clouds in this composition indicates that Hokusai had actually seen Mount Fuji in these conditions. Mount Fuji is not actually this steep – its slopes are less than 45 degrees – but Hokusai made it steep toward the peak for dramatic effect. 

The simple color scheme is limited to red-brown, blue, white, and two shades of green. The composition overall demonstrates that the most powerful and effective composition does not require complexity. (The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, HOKUSAI AND HIROSHIGE – Great Japanese Prints from the James A. Michener Collection, Honolulu Academy of Arts: The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, 1998 Page 56, Cat. 7)

Despite its simplicity, this is one of Hokusai’s most powerful depictions of Mount Fuji. The mountain is said to take on a red color at dawn in the late summer or early fall, in the rays of the rising sun. An auspicious sight, depictions of Red Fuji became popular among literati artists and intellectuals in the Edo period as worship of the mountain spread. The Japanese title of this work is Gaifü Kaisei, which literally means “southern breeze in clear weather.” 

According to its original Chinese meaning, gaifü (southern breeze) is the wind that blows in early summer, bestowing longevity upon all living things. Hokusai here likens Mount Fuji to the legendary Mount Hörai, an isle of eternal youth in Chinese mythology.

Traditionally believed to be in the sea to the east of China (like Japan itself), with cliffs so steep it could only be reached by flying on the back of a crane, Mount Hörai offered a vision of freedom from toil and political intrigue to both Chinese and Japanese intelligentsia, and was a popular subject in the arts. “Hokusai’s Summit: Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji”.

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