Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Woman After Bath" by Goyo

This color woodcut was created by Hashiguchi Goyo in 1920. The artist only produced 14 prints in his life (cut short by illness), and this is perhaps the best known. The blog Venus Observations offers this short article outlining Goyo's career with additional images from the artist's small but stunning portfolio.

I find the masterfulness with which this print was executed tremendously intimidating. How I feel meditating on this image is probably close to how a portrait artist feels meditating on the Mona Lisa. “Woman After Bath” depicts such a mundane scene from every day life. The woman is caught in the middle of washing, her hands squeezing a cloth over a basin of water. The basin is cropped, as is most of the room, reminding me of a snapshot. This is one moment in time, like any other, passing away. And yet with the woman’s body drawn so painstakingly in the center of the image, her youthful form glowing, creamy white against the soft compliments of reds and greens, the moment becomes monumental.

The moments after cleaning or organizing anything are blissfully calm. After I place all my daughter's toys back in the toy box, vacuum up all the wood shavings, or push the "on" button on the dish washer, all is set right. I know it will just get messed up again the next day, but that is a joyful thought too, because after that much more living, it can be set right again and again. No matter how bad things smell, how ugly they get, no matter how many mistakes are made, I can always start over again. This great sense of relief is that much more gratifying when my body itself has been made clean. I love that this print reminds me that this simple, daily chore can be a great joy.


  1. that life can be summed by acts of reverence and simplicity (while we all struggle with complexities of our own design and wrestle with our incessant need to immortilize our unhappy struggle and acheive some sort of recognition for it), is indeed a intimidating thought...but acts of joy are not measurable my time and are moments of true awakening and art created in the hope of capturing that moment of zen are amazing in thier fresh reminders that we too can be one with this and can ease the suffering of others through daily re-awakening...

  2. congratulations Martha, This is an auspicious start and I look forward to reading more posts!

  3. Very nice. I liked the commentary meshed into your own life.

  4. Serene and sensuous -- beautiful print and commentary.