Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Ai" from Hiroshige's set of "large fishes"

 This past weekend I went to a flea market at the Awbury Arboretum and had the good fortune to come across a book titled Hiroshige: A Shoal of Fishes for only $2. It's a modest-sized accordion style book that contains reproductions (each image covers a 15" x 10.5" double-page spread) of twenty woodcuts from Hiroshige's first of two sets of fish. In the back of the book is the list of titles, suggested seasons represented in each image by the plants included or animals' behavior, and the poem which accompanies the image. The poem for this print is translated:

While the noisy autumn rain falls
     on the river
the trout swim in the shadows

It's definitely not Hiroshige's most earth-shattering work, but the reproductions are very good, and it is a real treat to be able to leaf through a complete set of related images that possess all of the tiny details and imperfections of the originals. Also interesting to go online and find different color variations on the same prints. This image (above) of trout didn't make me think of trout swimming downstream. It's hard to say why - they just seemed too blue. Blue makes me think of the ocean, sharks and whales. With trout and streams I think more about greens and browns, pebbles and plants.

This second variation is my favorite of all the ones I found online. The contrast between the color of the trout and the water make me feel that the trout are moving especially fast, just slicing through the water. The water seems still cool, but not as cold as in the above image. The golden trout seem both regal and ghostly. I also find the subtle wood grain in the background stunning.

If anyone else out there reading this is interested in the book, I see plenty of used copies on Amazon for as little as $7.95, and new copies for as little as $35.

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