Japanese Art

Hiroshige Atake

Utagawa Hiroshige, Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake, 1857

Utagawa Hiroshige was an exceptional artist of Japan, noted for his unusual vantage points, striking colors and wonderful depiction of his nation’s landscape.  Hiroshige’s style was of the Ukiyo-e Art style, and was he was considered that last master of this style.  This style often depicted on popular actors, urban scenes of Japan, and beautiful women.  Hiroshige’s style evolved over his lengthy career.  In this 1857 piece entitled Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake, a group of men are crossing a bridge during a rain storm.  I love the movement of the rain drops, and the way the people are pushing their way through the storm.

Hiroshige never made much money creating his pieces, but seemed to enjoy the process. In 1856, Hiroshige retired from his art career and became a Buddhist monk.  In his retirement, he still created pieces, but they didn’t measure up to the great works of this early and mid-career.  Hiroshige, as well as others from this style, were credited for the art movement and inspiration in the West, known as Japonism.

Great Wave off Kanagawa

Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, 1829-1832

Katsushika Hokusai was born in Tokyo, and lived an interesting life – having 30 names in his lifetime.  His father was a mirror maker for the shogun, and his mother a concubine.  Hokusai began creating art at an early age, worked as a woodblock carver for a lending library, as well as various apprenticeships.  His experience of wood block carving helped Hokusai come to be known – especially for his series of prints Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.  The first of this series, The Great Wave off Kanagawa is one of my examples of Japanese art, also great example of the Ukiyo-e art style.   I love this piece, and have included a picture of an ice carving from several years ago that echo’s Hokusai’s essence.  Ukiyo-e art thrills me, as it adorns my house, as well as my body with the tattoos I have.

Here is a photo I took of a carving from the 2009 Ice Art Championships that is no doubt inspired by Hokusai’s above mentioned piece.

Ice Art 09 084


Environmental Art anyone?

The swordsmith Munechika being aided by a kitsune fox spirit,Ogata_Gekko_General_Major_Odera_Yasuzumi_in_the_Battle_of_Weihaiwei

Ogata Gekkō, The Swordsmith Munechika Being Aided By A Kitsune Fox Spirit, 1887

General Major Odera Yasuzumi in the Battle of Weihaiwei, 1895

Ogata Gekkō was inspired by Katsushika Hokusai (who wouldn’t be), and proved his artistic worthiness through his evolution of the Ukiyo-e art style.  Gekkō used this style to express the influence that the First Sino-Japanese War was having on Japan.  Art was commissioned to help educate the people to the ways of the new government.  Gekkō pieces were often Nihonga pieces, which are created using specialized paint brushes on Japanese silk paper.  Nihonga was created for hand and hanging scrolls, folding silkscreens.

I have provided two pieces by Gekkō that I enjoyed – General Major Odera Yasuzumi in the Battle of Weihaiwei & The Swordsmith Munechika Being Aided By A Kitsune Fox Spirit.  Gekkō expresses such power in both pieces, one getting ready for battle, the other amidst the war.  He takes an unfortunate historical event, and entertainingly displays it as through a soldier and a craftsman viewpoint.  History told through art that anyone can see and experience.

Mokume Gane

mokume gane knifemokume gane ringmens mokume ringMokume Gane

Just for fun, and because I love jewelry, I wanted to share the Japanese sword making technique of mokume gane.  Mokume gane literally translates to “wood grain metal”, and is pronounced “Moe-koo-may Gah-nay”.  Mokume gane is the technique of hand bonding several metals –stemming from techniques as far back as the 1700’s. The process of melding the metals makes it incredibly strong, which is why it was used to create samurai swords, and has now evolved into a wonder genre of jewelry for both men and woman.  Please enjoy some long ago and now examples of this fascinating technique that brings ancient history to current style.

Thanks for reading!


Utagawa Hiroshige, Sudden Shower Over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake, 1857



Katsushika Hokusai, The Great Wave off Kanagawa, 1829-1832



Ogata Gekkō, The Swordsmith Munechika Being Aided By A Kitsune Fox Spirit, 1887

General Major Odera Yasuzumi in the Battle of Weihaiwei, 1895




Mokume Gane







More Squares, barnesSlava Fokk 1976 - Russian Postmodern Symbolist painterCallaway%20IrisRaven King by Ashley CollinsIris Leaves with Rowan Berries andy goldworthyoleksandra barysheva, deconstruction-of-innocence_charcoal-on-paperClose self-portrait 2000Caryl Bryer Fallert, Rainbow Planets

Squares are everywhere we look, buildings, windows, books, screens – and it seems like we live in our own squares (and sometime circles) of family, community, churches, as well.  A square can be a cornerstone, background, a way to add detail, as well as be the subject matter.  I am happy to share with you my collection of art that I found to have a connection to squares.

More Squares, barnes

Maggie Barnes, More Squares, 2007 (1)

Simply titled – More Squares, Maggie Barnes’s 2007 abstract piece is my spring board for the theme of Squares.  Barnes has a style that is calming, with intricate details in her shading and color gradation.  Inspired by works from Cezanne, Van Gogh and Moore – she strives to use art as a form of self-exploration.  Barnes completes abstract, figurate and pet portraits styles.  Of all her completed pieces, I enjoy this piece very much, and would love to have it in my home.

Slava Fokk 1976 - Russian Postmodern Symbolist painter

Slava Fokk, Unknown Tittle, Unknown year (2)

Slava Fokk has a wonderful way of presenting a center focal point of his pieces, but you could get lost in the great details he gives in the fore and background.  Born in Russia in 1976, he later attended Krasnodar Art School, also known as the Repin, and graduated in the top 10 of his class.  This piece had no title on any of the sites I went to, but was referred to as 33 several times.  It­­­­­­­ captured my attention with the girl’s intent gaze, and historical feel the piece had – as well as the pattern in background matching my theme of squares.  Fokk’s style has now evolved far from this Postmodernism with Russian symbolisms, but I appreciate this nod to his past.


Celia Durand’s’ Callaway Iris, 2012 (3)

Celia Durand’s’ Callaway Iris was part of the 2012 National Juried Show for the Southern Appalachian Artist Guild.   This piece fit into my theme of “Squares” by the way Durand gave depth to the background by placing reflective images into offset squares.  Another interesting aspect of this piece is that it was all created digitally – in its true essence – all pixilated little squares.  Durand is originally from Argentina, but has moved to the states, and evolved her computer programing degree into a combination of photos with digital elements & artistic techniques.  It’s so wonderful to see that one can use today’s technology to create art at such a beautiful level – keeping hope alive in a cubical setting most of us are so familiar with.

Raven King by Ashley Collins

Ashley Collins, Raven King, year unknown (4)

My theme of squares continues with Ashley Collin’s piece entitled Raven King, year unknownAs an artist, Collins uses horses as her subject matter, and uses series of sketches to create her finished works.  Her work is world renound, and she stepped out and made her way in a predominantly male arena – with wide acceptance for her recognizable style.  Raven King spoke to me as soon as my eyes fell upon it, the way the majestic head of a horse with intense eyes sits so striking against the juxtaposed variety of images.  Collin included a cannon and old news articles as part of her layered background of squares and rectangles.  The random squares of solid or rimmed color push further intrigue into this piece, as well as the layering of paint streams.  I would love to see this piece up-close to see if the articles further impact the message of the artist, possibly tying the title of Raven King to the piece. 

Iris Leaves with Rowan Berries andy goldworthy

Andy Goldsworthy, Iris Leaves with Rowan Berries, 1987 (5)

Environmental Art is a new concept for me, and I am so glad this class has lead me to it!  Mother Nature creates patterns almost everywhere we look – clouds, tree, leaves, sand and humans have been trying to capture this for years.  Scotland’s Andy Goldsworthy has incorporated his work in campaigns to bring nature awareness to children to; as well as being an award winner of the Scottish Arts Council Award and the Yorkshire Arts Award.  I introduce Goldsworthy’s 1987 photo Iris Leaves with Rowan Berries – which I feel has a slight Japanese feel.  Goldsworthy creates depth by using the dark water background to create spacing between the leaves, and a punch of color by filling the squares with the rowan berries.  I wonder how he was able to create this art without the water or wind moving the leaves and berries about!  It might need a bit of imagination to tie this piece to squares – yet I feel the angles of the leaves gives the illusion of squares – and this style is defiantly out f the box.

oleksandra barysheva, deconstruction-of-innocence_charcoal-on-paper

Oleksandra-Barysheva, Deconstruction-of-Innocence, 2011 (6)

I enjoyed this 2011 picture by Oleksandra Barysheva, entitled Deconstruction-of-Innocence, as what she portrays it what it felt like to me going and living on my own.  I was raised with strict standards of how things were done, and how to act.  Realizing I can do what I want, when I want – while sitting in my first place was exhilarating- and confusing.  Barysheva explored this emotion by the deconstruction of our youthful foundation.  Life is what we make of what we have, and how we put it together.  Oleksandra Barysheva was a recipient of the 2009 Gold Award for the Illustrator of the year in the L. Ron Hubbard – Writers of the Future, News of the Arts.  Her art is often transferred to shirts as well.

Close self-portrait 2000

Chuck Close, Self-portrait, 2000 (7)

My theme of Squares comes to a beautiful example of Postmodern Portraits with Chuck Closes’ 2000 piece simply entitled Self-portrait.  This picture was part of a blog entitled Art Now and Then, which as its title suggests, compares art from now to art “back when”.  I have more of an appreciation for this blog’s writings, due to all the articles and blogs read from this class; it was interesting to see the different styles and selections of art compared.  Close uses a square shape on-point, filled with various circumferences of colors layered within each square to create details of his face.  To me, life is also filled with little circles that we must stand back in order to see the entire picture, and appreciate.  Love this piece!  Other of Closes pieces have thought to have blurred the lines between photographs and paintings – a nice compliment to the 1964 MFA graduate of Yale.  Close had dyslexia as a child yet found art at age 14, after seeing a Jackson Pollack exhibition decided he was going to become and artist.  For this, I’m so glad he did.

Caryl Bryer Fallert, Rainbow Planets

Caryl Bryer Fallert, Rainbow Planets, 2001 (8)

I saved the best for last!  Fiber artist, Caryl Bryer Fallert is a phenomenal quilter, which to me, is art on another level.  Her 2001 quilt, Rainbow Planets, is part 4 of her Fibonacci Series.  This design series is mathematically based on progression of scale, also integrating gradation of color and size and relationship between the two.  Rainbow Planets has a dark background to bring out the relationship between the stable horizontal and vertical lines, to the rainbow arc of circles that spirals across the quilt.  The piece is further detailed in the topstitching patterns and florescent color thread.  There are many visual squares, layers and layers of them depending on what level you look at – nicely fitting my theme of squares.  This is my cup of tea, and the type of art I want to complete in my life.  Caryl Bryer Fallert’s collection provided in the links below is mind-blowing – keeping in mind that each quilt takes anywhere from 10 to 100 hours to compete – even more sometimes!!  Caryl Bryer Fallert has many awards and recognition for her works, such as 2006 recipient of the International Quilt Festival Silver Star (lifetime achievement) Award.  She has her own store in Paducah, Kentucky called the Bryerpatch Studio, which I hope to visit someday.

Thanks for Reading!


1.)  Maggie Barnes, More Squares, 2007

2.) Slava Fokk, Unknown Tittle, Unknown year

3.)  Celia Durand’s’ Callaway Iris, 2012

4.)  Ashley Collins, Raven King, year unknown

5.)  Andy Goldsworthy, Iris Leaves with Rowan Berries, 1987  ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

6.)  Oleksandra-Barysheva, Deconstruction-of-Innocence, 2011

7.)  Chuck Close, Self-portrait, 2000 (7)

8.)  Caryl Bryer Fallert, Rainbow Planets, 2001 (8)


The Early 20th Century: The Age of Anxiety

Klee 1922

The picture by Paul Klee entitled Dance You Monster to My Soft Song!, 1922, New York, was captivating to me.  The style, mixed with the grandiose title, then layer the meaning and story Klee intended, it is most certainly not cartoonish – which was my first impression.  The subject is an enchanted monster from the Medusa tribe, who has mentally conquered the master.  He is dancing, but not for the reasons one thinks.   The muted colors, distinct lines, show a stability that is coherent – yet the title of the piece, and the face of the monster shows the anxiety of choosing to go against what you know you should do, or think you should do.  Facing anxiety is scary, but the outcome can be great, as is shown with this piece.  Klee’s art is simplistic in its form, but strong though the artists intent, which I love.  Klee’s art was forward for its time; well defined advent guard.



Bird in Space Constantin Brancusi 1923
My next choice for the early 20th Century, with the theme of Age of Anxiety, was the sculpture Bird in Space, by Constantin Brancusi, created in Paris in 1923.  It is an intriguing interpretation of a bird – a theme of Brancusi’s during this time was a bird in flight.  He has taken this idea, remove the wings completely, reduced the head and beak to an angle, and made the body sleeker – all delicately balanced on a stand.  This piece was made of marble, yet Brancusi created this piece several more times, sometimes in bronze with limestone and wood pedestal.

My interpretation of Brancusi’s preoccupation with bird in flight was his subconscious anxiety of where we are in space.  As humans in society, we mold ourselves into the area we exist, sometimes to the extent that we are unrecognizable.  This being said, these changes can make us into something we never thought we could be – good or bad.  The base of the sculpture is a reminder that keeping the balance in these decisions keeps us alive, as well as always aware of what space we are in.  This sculpture is a reminder to me, to be aware of who we are in the space we occupy.





survivor of warsaw

Listening to A Survivor from Warsaw performance chills me to the bone…the way the band plays such unexpected notes, the timbre of vocalist, internalizing the words of his story – and the music echoing the emotion!! It is so powerful and dramatic, and sad – that this piece, A Survivor from Warsaw, is an account of an actual experience. The ending to this performance was so riveting, I had borderline heart-palpitations with anxiety of what was going to happen next – the music was so moving. I can’t say I exactly enjoyed it, but it was an experience I won’t soon forget! Musical history was created in this piece, written by Arnold Schoenberg in 1947 in Los Angeles; and I am glad that I have experienced this hallowing tale.





As soon as I saw Mary Cassatt’s piece, Maternal Caress, completed in 1890-91 at an unknown location, I knew I would writing about it. I come from a mixed family, Tlingit and Japanese, and family is the foundation of both heritages, as it is in most. Being a mother, the way that the woman is so desperately holding her child is something I can relate to. I noticed that Cassatt’s piece has a delicate Japanese influence – small enough to be overlooked if you were just quickly looking. The entire space is filled with a warm color – yet not much detail – enough to give you an “impression” of a bedroom. The woman’s face has just enough lines to see her emotion; and I love the baby, clinging to her mother with as much love as she is getting. This drypoint print gives you an impression of devotion and love. I don’t particularly care for impressionistic styles of paintings, but I appreciate that the artist is sharing their fleeting glimpse into their subject. Cassatt, (1844-1926), unfortunately never had children herself, but she was able to portray love and family in an intense way, that I very much enjoy.




As an extreme to an impressionism, I found that I really enjoyed art by Philipp Otto Runge, a Romantic German painter, (23 July 1777 – 2 December 1810). Runge was a true artist, as he experimented with the fundamental colors – red, yellow and blue, adding white and black. He completed his color gradation in a piece entitled Farbenkugel (color sphere) in 1807 in Hamburg, and this scientific documentation is a wonderful example to the art world. This project is magnificent to me, as it takes true dedication to take an idea, give it the persistence to be consistent in order to complete the project to its full potential. Runge was known as a romantic painter, but this piece to me seems real. Runge displayed the ability for artists to slide into different genres, romantic to realism back to romantic, the viewer enjoying the ride.

Philipp_Otto_Runge the mornging 1808

Another piece of Runge that I enjoyed was a version of Morning that he completed in Kunsthalle, Hamburg in 1808. I really enjoy the art in the border of the piece, as it brings the piece to another level, almost over the top – as romantic artists enjoyed to do. The piece is a pleasurable way to interpret the morning sunrise – “The break of day becomes a symbol for the divine spark in every being, emerging, heralding new life”. (Frühauf).



The styles I’ve chosen today are quite different, yet they all show how artists can cultivate emotion – through intense detail, such as Runge’s Morning; or large placements of colors like Cassatt’s piece, Maternal Caress. I hope you enjoyed my opinion of these great works of art today, and thanks for reading!

One more thought!
Another style of art that was developing on the outskirts of the Impressionism time, was the newfound photography field. Here is a photo by Stieglitz, entitled A Bit of Venice published in 1898 in New Jersey that I love.



Rise of the Middle Class in the 1700’s

Cornelia's treasures

Treasures Defined
I absolutely love this painting by Angelica Kauffman.  She painted it around 1785 in London, and entitled it Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, Pointing to her Children as Her Treasures. This painting, a re-telling of an ancient roman tale, shows a woman in red with the trinkets her husband has brought back to her from his travels.  She asks the woman in white, Cornelia, what treasures does she have – and the Cornelia motions to her children.  What a great moral message Kauffman is emphasizing; Cornelia, as a woman deemed lower than the woman in red – shows that money and treasures matters little as compared to life. This message is as true today as it was in the late 1700’s; as proof, is the saying from the Suze Orman Show, “People first, then money, then stuff”.  Kauffman’s art is representative of the anti-Rococo rebellion that helps create the neoclassical style.  The realism of the details in the subjects, the colors of the clothing implying purity, and the moral message make it a piece of history that will always be treasured by anyone, regardless of class or social standing.




The Creation
The composer of The Creation, Franz Joseph Haydn, was a musical master from an early age.  His life was anything but easy, at 6 years old he was sent to apprentice with his relative, Johann Matthias Frankh, never to see his family again.  Here, he trained vocally and with various musical instruments, with not so much attention paid to his health and hygiene.  Haydn was also choirboy at the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where he was again trained further, performing for royalty – and eating well during those performances.  After some bad behavior expelled him from being a choirboy, he was a Kapellmeister, music director for Count Morzin.  After his time there and serving royal courts, he strived to become a freelance musician.  This serendipitous transition was for the best I believe, because he finished a masterpiece for the people.  It took Hayden many years to complete The Creation, composed mostly in England around 1796-1798.  When it was complete – people stood in lines to hear the work.  It was uncommon for the time to perform for the public, but it was the wish of Haydn to share with the people – and the rise of the merchant class now had money and a growing appreciation for music.  The Creation was a great masterpiece in a musical aspect with an acceptant new audience of a social middle-class, and a great representation of the Neoclassical spirit of the late 1700’s.





The discovery of Pompeii in 1748 was monumental to the understanding of ancient Roman society, and was a muse for many genres of artists.  The historic city was devastatingly preserved by the volcanic ash and pumice from Vesuvius in 79 AD, a volcano that was thought to be extinct.  The discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum brought a newfound interest in classical roman civilization – and helped fuel the neoclassical inspiration in art, writing, jewelers, decorators and philosophers.  The discovery of Pompeii was a hand-up for the middle class, especially writers, as there was a demand for illustrated books about the life that thrived in the ancient city.  The merchant class was now educated to a higher level, and had the technology to create and distribute their tributes to this recovered city.

Karl Briullov’s piece entitled The Last Day of Pompeii, circa 1830-33, Russia, visually shows what might have happened the fateful 25the day of August in 79 AD.  This piece was completed outside the dates of the classical era we are studying right now, but his use of chiaroscuro, attention to detail, and depiction of mortality showed the transition of neoclassical style to romantisism.  Briullov’s interpretation of this fiery day was inspired by his visitation of the ruins, and was funded as a commission by Prince Anatole Demidov.

Pompeii is still, to this day, contributing to the arts, philosophers, architects; and will into the future, as technology allows us to dive deeper into this great city.





Baroque Blog: The Milkmaid


The art of the Baroque era seems to be vast, depending on the location, religion, and the social standing or relation of the artist. There was finally a more widespread appreciation for art, as well as support from the churches, and notable development of educational standards for art to be created and judged. Of this time, Johannes Vermeer art seems to show a bright side of the Baroque era, an era that had brought some disgrace and discomfort for art patrons as well as the churches.

Johannes Vermeer’s piece entitled The Milkmaid, speaks worlds of how everyday can be beautiful. The way the light shines on her face lets the details flow down to her jug she is pouring, a simple act captured with charisma. There is a nice balance of darkness in the shadows behind her creating an intimate atmosphere. The use of color is muted, and is mentioned that Vermeer experimented with unconventional sources to create colors. I enjoyed this genre piece, and appreciate the nod to the merchant class that it depicted.

Art sales were picking up in the Baroque era; as there were schools, apprentices and guilds that focused on the support of artists. It was said that some artists would paint enough paintings to pay for a day’s food and drink, and not ever gain much further recognition than that. The rise of the merchant class meant there was more disposable money, and it was important to keep up with the jones – even back then. Artists turned to specializing, a way to ensure that the merchant class received exactly what they wanted. All styles of art were popular, it was a very lucrative time to be an artists. Vermeer’s art was valued at a premium, helping the merchant classes show off their status with his works on their street walls.





The Birth of Venus Explained

The Birth of Venus was on the wall of the mysterious room called “the Den” when I was growing up. I rarely went in there, only to tell Papa it was time for dinner, or that it was his turn to tuck me in. The painting captivated me – I wanted her hair! Papa noticed my attention to the piece, and took the painting off the wall. He asked me what I thought of the picture. My answer was it was a girl who was a little sad or lost, and needed some clothes; only to be 9 again. Papa smiled, and told me a story. From the best of my memory, here is his explanation of The Birth of Venus.
“This painting is about a birth of a child, brought from hate, to bring happiness and beauty to the world. See the wind coming from his mouth (pointing to the figure on the left) – he’s whispering that she’s coming, and the lady in dress heard his words on the wind. That’s why she’s at the beach waiting for the girl. There is nothing to be ashamed of on your body. God made you, and you are beautiful. The world was waiting for the girl in the picture, and the same world is here for you.”
Papa’s words are a slight truth, but the painting has so much more to tell. It is believed that the painting might have been commissioned by the Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, of Florence. The Medici Family was a godsend to the art community of the time. This family had money, power, and the understanding of needed education to help raise the growing middle-class of the Renaissance. The support of the arts, such as this commissioned piece, is a cornerstone of the development of universities and the sustainment of artists. It is believed that Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli, painted the orange blossoms in the trees as an appreciation towards the Medici’s family.
Much has been written about Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, as it layers mythology, Christianity, and royalty. It was a masterpiece of its time, with the attention to detail that is common of Renaissance art, as well as its technicality in colors, textures and lines. The physical aspects of this piece are amazing, and when combined with the infinite thoughts that can be taken from the visual details – there are many more stories that Fathers can tell their daughters experiencing their first scantily clad paining.