Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hiroshige: Realistic Style vs. Cursive Style

Hiroshige: Swimming Carp, Sketches from original manuscript and printed version of A Picture-Book Miscellany

The manual (A Picture-Book Miscellany) describes two means of artistic expression: "realistic depiction" (... shinzu), and "cursive depiction" (... sō ga). Hiroshige believed that a thorough knowledge of techniques of realistic depiction were necessary before the artist could apply his personal interpretation by means of "cursive depiction." Hiroshige's "realistic sketches" are themselves grounded in the impressionistic tenets of the Shijō School, and are thus already one stage removed from Western-style verisimilitude. The Western artist might well find a traditional Japanese artist's "realistic" sketches to be quite impressionistic; whereas the Japanese might find Western "realism" too photographic in effect to be considered fine art.

– Richard Lane, Ukiyo-e: An Introduction to the "Floating World". From the book Masterpieces of Japanese Prints, Ukiyo-e from the Victoria and Albert Museum. 1991

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