Saturday, December 22, 2018

Western Culture Categorization of Gender
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Season's Greetings
This will be the last post for 2018. The next post will be on the 12th of January, 2019.

No matter what your religion or what your belief system, I hope you have a very enjoyable festive season.


This topic is dear to me and so when I wrote it - for an address I was giving - it did cause some debate!

In this analysis the anthropological structure of Levi-Strauss will be followed; that is, to grasp beyond the conscious and always shifting images which our Western society holds, in order to comprehend the complete range of unconscious possibilities. This analysis will be divided into six sections covering: (i) Fine-Art Images; (ii) Advertising Images; (iii) Film Images; (iv) Television Images; (v) “Rock” Videos; (vi) Art Media.

Western Culture Categorization of Gender
The surface people of the future - as H.G. Wells envisaged in the "Time Machine" - were[1]: “In costume, and in all the differences of texture and bearing that now mark off the sexes from each other, these people of the future were alike.” These future androgynous peoples, in a physical and intellectual sense, have not yet fully evolved in today's world. Here I use "androgynous" not in its literal meaning - partly male and partly female in appearance (i.e. of indeterminate sex) - rather in a more figurative sense: that society will be blind to the color, lineage, gender, and sexual preference of a person when judging their output.

Intellectually Simone de Beauvoir observed that[2]: “The emotional concern shown by adult women towards Man would of itself suffice to perch him on a pedestal.” Simone de Beauvoir was at the vanguard in awakening human consciousness in the manner in which mainstream Western culture categorized and stereotyped gender.

The post 1960s view of the underlying gender roles in Western culture has been greatly altered by the development of programs, which attempted to identify barriers to women’s participation. Two decades of constant activism in Australia led to the development of the Affirmative Action Act in 1986[3]. However, these legal structures attempted to re-address “unacceptable” social behaviour and in so doing, made moral judgements - but have they progressed gender imagery to a more androgynous stance?

This analysis is limited in its focus, since it will center on Western culture and the means of communication available within it. In this sense, the goal of the analysis is to follow the anthropological goal of Levi-Strauss; that is to[4]: “...grasp, beyond the conscious and always shifting images which men hold, the complete range of unconscious possibilities”.

Fine-Art Images
John Berger in “Ways of Seeing”[5] states that: "Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak”.

When we confront a piece of artwork, whether its Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks or van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows we become like children; we do not speak but we “...observe, feel and interact”. That is, we engage in a conscious act with the artwork.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of The Rocks.

van Gogh’s Wheatfield With Crows.

In the age of digital reproduction, reflecting nature like a mirror is no longer the calling of modern “Art”. For the Impressionists, the visible was no longer there just to be seen, whereas for Cubists what confronted the viewer was the totality of views, taken from all possible directions around the object and mapped onto a single view.

Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (1840-1926).

Pablo Picasso’s Cubist Lady (1881-1973).

Christianity dominated pre-modern European oil paintings. Since Eve was the first to eat the forbidden fruit and tempted Adam to do the same, thereafter they saw each other differently. European oil paintings were dominated by depictions of women in the nude, in the early stages of pregnancy (subtly indicating sexual activity) and in the company of child-like gods. Inevitably, the figure of a woman was in a reclining position, ready for submission to the owner’s feelings or demands and surrounded by bedding. These features are found in such paintings as, Nell Gwynne by Lely (1618-1680), Reclining Bacchante by Trutat (1824-1848), Danae by Rembrandt (1606-1669) and The Venus of Urbino by Titian (1487-1576).

Nell Gwynne by Lely (1618-1680).

Reclining Bacchante by Trutat (1824-1848).

Danae by Rembrandt (1606-1669).

The Venus of Urbino by Titian (1487 - 1576).

It is clear that the woman - being the “subject” - knows that men are surveying her. She is aware - as is the onlooker - that there is a relationship between them, which places her in a position of “wanting” to be looked upon as an “object” of his or her imagination, rather than as a person with her own demands.

By contrast, men were depicted as powerful, arrogant, worldly and learned. If nude, they are god-like heroes, who transcend their gender (e.g. contrast the difference in the man’s and woman’s posture in A Roman Feast by Thomas Couture (1815-1879)). These men were wealthy and their gaze and stance now lack any recognition of the presence of the onlooker. They were usually looking at an object in their presence, but not in the observer’s world. They are no longer objects of our imagination, but are composed in such a manner that the observer is rendered to the status of a witness as seen in The Ambassadors by Holbein (1497/8-1543), The Beaumont Family by Romney (1734-1802), Emanuel Philibert - of Savoy by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), and Endymion Porter by William Dobson (1610-1646).

A Roman Feast - by Thomas Couture (1815-1879).

The Ambassadors - by Holbein (1497/8-1543).

The Beaumont Family - by Romney (1734-1802).

Emanuel Philibert of Savoy - by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641).

Endymion Porter - by William Dobson (1610-1646).

Have these fine-art images of gender progressed in fine-art paintings. Perhaps in portraiture paintings, a significant progression has occurred. For example, Archibald winners (best Australian portrait) concentrate on illuminating the character of their subject and in doing so see well beyond the veneer of sexuality.

Ben Quilty’s Margaret Olley (2011 Archibald Winner).

Del Kathryn Barton’s - Self Portrait with Kell and Arella (2008 Archibald Winner).

However, are fine-art traditions gender blind? The female population in Australia in 2016 was 50.18%, whereas in all traditional artistic endeavours, in the last two decades women have won fewer art awards (e.g. from 2000-2018 only six female artists have won the Archibald prize).

Advertising Images
In the world of advertising imagery, Michael O’Shaughnessy and Jane Stadler [6] have pointed out that there are contradictory ideologies and discourses presented with respect to masculinity and femininity. In the post-feminist era, these contradictory images have both a progressive and regressive aspect. The conflict centers on gaining control; that is, the maintenance of male hegemony is clearly on this boundary.

A perfect example of this tension is in the series of Freedom Furniture television advertisements. In one such advertisement, a young man has determined that the next major purchase should be a car, whereas his female partner has decided it should be furniture. There is a clear conflict in determining the next purchase and in determining who is in control. With an effective jump cut, the advertisement reveals the solution: the man is playing with a remote controlled toy car around new furniture. The viewer is then invited to: “Think beyond the square we live in”.

In this advertisement the traditional roles of males and females are underlined in that men love cars and make decisions without consultation, whereas the woman is the homemaker. Nevertheless, a hegemonic struggle is evident on a sub-conscious level rather than on a confrontational or conscious level. In this advertisement the woman wins the furniture, but at a cost - the traditional roles and power relations have not shifted or altered. The man had to be consoled and needed to be satisfied in some way. The advertisement would have been far more startling and provocative if male and female roles had been interchanged.

Similar advertisements hit the US market during the super bowl series, where a fellow player claims that the receiver is playing like Betty White. To mostly a male sporting audience watching the super bowl, the retort of the receiver is equally acceptable: “That’s not what your girlfriend says”. It is a humorous advertisement that reflects current “middle” American gender stereotypes.

Snickers Bar Advertisement.

As Michael O’Shaughnessy and Jane Stadler have concluded in their analysis of a similar Australian advertisement (Continental Soup)[6]: “The advertisement is fascinating in the way it offers aspects of progressive discourse about women’s sexuality [or lack of it] but then incorporates these back into traditional views of feminine roles...” Little has progressed if that is the case!

Film Images
There are too few actors like Lauren Bacall or Bette Davies and too many actors like Rock Hudson and Cary Grant, not to see an obvious trend-line. It cannot be denied that women actors are still mainly young, attractive and play “acceptable” roles, whereas male actors can be thin, fat, vile, old and still be admired even if they play “unacceptable” roles.

There is no better modern example of the latter, than John Travolta. In Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Grease (1978), he was thin, vibrant, endearing and a young male leader, who could also be quite compassionate underneath his rough diamond exterior. In Pulp Fiction (1994) he was experienced, uneducated but intelligent, killing for a career, yet still endearing. In Broken Arrow (1996) he was a middle-aged professional killer, who was evil, but like Frankenstein, moulded by circumstance and so was “understood”. In Michael (1996), he was a fat chauvinistic type and yet a comically endearing angel, who had a heart of gold.

John Travolta in Grease.

A Modern John Travolta.

In the case of women, the roles cannot be nearly so varied nor so deep, otherwise the longevity of their careers may be threatened. Let us consider some of the roles that Jane Fonda has played (her career has spanned a significant number of years). Jane Fonda has starred in such varied roles as Barefoot in the Park (1967), Barbarella (1968), Klute (1971), Coming Home (1978), The China Syndrome (1979) and On Golden Pond (1981). In all of these roles, she has played an “acceptable” romantic lover, a nymph, a prostitute, a nurturer/mother, a fighter for justice and a complex daughter, respectively. But what if she accepted a role such as Glenn Close, who played a deranged, discarded lover in Fatal Attraction (1987). Deranged and evil is permissible in caricature (e.g. Glenn Close as Cruella DeVil in 101 Dalmatians, 1996) or at the end of a career. However, a realistic portrayal of a deranged and evil person (such as the roles that John Travolta has played in the prime of his career) is still in this age unbecoming of a woman actor in the prime of her career.

Jane Fonda in Klute.

The "Me Too" movement swept across the globe with women expressing their vulnerability and susceptibility with respect to leading actors, producers and directors coercing them to engage in sexual acts, with or without their consent. So what has changed if the casting couch is as relevant today as it was yesterday!

Television Images
The formal history of television, as a mass medium, began in the USA in 1948 and in Australia in 1956. As James Monaco [8] has pointed out television has replaced the odd number of series in films into an art form. Whether in open-ended or closed-form, it is the medium that allows for the development of complex inter-relationships among characters. The domestic nature of television suggests that the “family” is an important topic of interest. The “drawing room” drama is dependent on dialogue rather than imagery and is intimate and psychological and so fits the small screen very well.

The “Ricardo/Ball/Arnaz” family literally grew up on television - first on I love Lucy and then The Lucy Show. Here the nuclear family of the 1950s and 1960s was fairly clear-cut. However, television must reflect the immediate society if it is to remain relevant to survive the current surge in convergent technologies. Pay TV, the internet, digital telecasting, films and community radio/TV are putting real pressure on free-to-air TV services. The Survival Shows were a commercial response to the online internet voyeur displays of men and women positioning video/digital cameras throughout their homes. Hence, it is not surprising that Networks displayed a Big Brother TV series – the latter was conceived after the film “The Trueman Show” appeared.

I Love Lucy.

Survival Shows.

Big Brother.

Television is the vanguard of showcasing new roles and new relationships within our society. Shows such as Fawlty Towers, Friends, Murphy Brown, Seinfeld, Sex in the City and Modern Family, have all moved away from the nuclear family and freely showcased homosexual as well as heterosexual relationships outside of and not including a typically nuclear family. Of the main characters in Seinfeld it is only Elaine, who earns a traditional living as an editor/writer. Seinfeld is a comedian, Kramer is self-employed (?), George is mostly unemployed and others such as Newman (a Postman) are clearly dysfunctional. Dysfunctional relationships caused by the breakdown of the nuclear family are the norm. Role changes are frequent and indeterminacy becomes natural.


Modern Family.

The worst case scenario is that of Bill Crosby. His TV show "The Crosby Show" centered on the lives of the Huxtables: obstetrician Cliff and his lawyer wife Claire, their daughters Sondra, Denise, Vanessa and Rudy, and son Theo. Based on the standup comedy of Bill Cosby, the show focused on his observations of family life. Yet some two and a half decades later, the TV star was found guilty for drugging women and then sexually invading their bodies without their consent whilst they were unconscious. Obviously, TV shows do not necessarily reflect reality but rather represent an accepted reality!

As James Monaco has observed[8]: “…print and non-print media [TV] has become markedly democratic during the last twenty years."

Such democracy brings with it a reflection of what is acceptable. It washes away our aspirational imagery and presents us with the current “acceptable” gender imagery irrespective if it is or if it is not founded in reality.

Rock Video Images
A rock video is a three to four minute commercial. It must sell the product that it is marketing; it is marketing the group or the artists and the song. In three to four minutes of marketing it must convince you, the consumer, that this is the move, the body, the face, the song and it is all of these things, if only you will part with your money (ca. $1-2 per song).

There have been a number of manufactured groups, commercially built for a niche market. The Monkeys were the first and after them came The Partridges and then television had to develop the “pop star process” in terms of a series such as So You Think You Can Sing. The audience and subsequent series became "the" marketing exercise. One hit and who cares if they survive, after all a whole TV series was built on the audition rather than on a song. And as James Monaco has observed that [8]: “…rock even for filmmakers has provided an instant key to contemporary ideas and feelings. George Lucas effectively used it in American Graffiti (1973)”.

The Monkeys.

So You Think You Can Sing.

Madonna and her songs typify the control of sexual direction away from male hegemony. Her rock video clips and songs confirm that she and only she is in control of the sexual approach and act. The video clips of songs such as Like a Virgin (1984), Material Girl (1985), Erotica (1992) and Bad Girl (1993) replaced the past “white knight” imagery of every girl’s dreams of love, by a new imagery of sexual needs. Men are to be used when she wants to use them. Men are expendable objects, not needed for a lifestyle, but for a biological process. She epitomises the post birth control era of sexual freedom of women and moreover, has transformed it into sexual wants in order to manipulate male or homosexual female lusts in order for Madonna to satisfy her financial and artistic needs.


In the male pop-star idiom, Ricky Martin (bouncing his buttocks) has become the norm to homosexual and heterosexual audiences alike. His video clips for songs such as The Cup of Life (1998) and Livin’ La Vida Loca (1999) and She Bangs (2000) see him as pinning and panting for love and not just sex. It is not surprising that he rocks and rolls and wears a tight sweatshirt to show his well-developed body.

Ricky Martin.

These video rock clips are at the vanguard of the new gender roles. Have roles reversed? Are men now panting after “white” knight virgins? Perhaps for relationships, but as the porn industry shows – not for solicited sex. Little has changed - men are sexy but women want sex!

Radio Images
The invention of the phonograph in 1877 radically altered the dissemination of sound. This led the way for radio to dominate sound imagery. By the early thirties, the spectrum of radio entertainment was complete. As James Monaco [8] has pointed out it covered comedy, musical variety shows, news and sports, game shows, the occasional talk shows together with soap operas, serials and the occasional series drama. As television took to the airspace in the 1950s, radio retreated to a more defensible position. The major part of the schedules of non-network, independent local radio stations had always been dominated by music and talk. As networks lost interest in radio, this pattern became more pervasive.

Initially, when radio was the mass medium, the timbre and quality of the voice was the currency for the station. Early, “bass” voices of excellent timbre were preferred. This resulted in male voices dominating the news and sport events - which took up considerable airtime. Women’s voices were restricted to soap operas.

As modern marketing techniques began to demand special audiences for advertisements, radio stations began to specialize instead of offering a mix of various entertainment services. This development resulted in a large number of radio channels (from AM to FM to internet). Moreover, the gender issues needed to reflect the society at large. The voices became “nationalized” and with ethnic radio, also reflected the minority background of a multi-cultural society. Moreover, female voices started to invade the prime time airwaves. Morning and afternoon prime times, sports and news finally become as if[1]: “...these people of the future [i.e. radio] were alike“.

The subject now became the determinant, whether the voice was male or female became irrelevant. Perhaps, a future androgynous people (in an intellectual sense) is in fact evolving on the radio - the medium that was cast into the shadows by more commercial forms of communication. Since imagery is no longer of any consequence, voices determine the sex, but the opinionated behaviour and character of the talker has become androgynous.

Wendy Williams – Shock Jockette.

Art Media
There is no doubt that in traditional "Art Media" men are still the dominant gender. In our modern world, women participate and are recognized on the periphery of traditional art media such as painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery and ceramics etc.

Frida Kahlo - Self Portrait.
1907-1954: Artist Frida Kahlo. Renowned as one of Mexico's most famous artists.

However, where women dominate an Art medium, such as ArtCloth or Art Quilts, the marketplace deems these works of art as being insignificant on a monetary scale. Only Art that has an anthropological significance, that uses cloth coincidently as its medium, will drive some interest from Museums and Galleries because it showcases a culture that has disappeared or might be on the verge of disappearing. As a result our collective world view of what constitutes "Art" is greatly diminished since a large body of artwork on cloth will go unnoticed by the viewing public.

In the ArtCloth Exhibition I curated - ArtCloth: Engaging New Visions - twenty-one international ArtCloth artists were showcased - twenty were women with the only single male invited to contribute - Ken Kagajo. Needless to say the exhibition was a success since so many women who engage in this type of art in Australia, could for the first time, experience a sense of where the forefront of their art medium was heading internationally.

Title: Razing/Raising Walls, Warsaw - detailed view; Artist: Norma Starszakowna.
Exhibition: ArtCloth: Engaging New Visions

Title: Discharge Thundercloud - overall view; Artist: Ken Kagajo.
Exhibition: ArtCloth: Engaging New Visions

We need to become blind to color and/or to gender of the artist when neither is of paramount importance with respect to the act of engagement. If all of our artists had been named "X" then we would value the inspiration of the work without our sub-conscious clutter about gender interfering with our act of engagement.

Within the Western culture stereotypical and categorized images of gender have become fluid. Lately, political correctness has been marginalized. Interest groups, such as religious groups and political activists, have struggled to get their particular categorization of gender as society’s accepted norm. Currently, gender imagery is at its anarchistic “best”; that is, chaos rules gender roles - thank goodness! However, in this chaos lies individual freedom to create one’s own image of gender – basically unhindered and unfettered. However, we should not dismiss art media where women dominate - e.g. Art Quilts, ArtCloth, and Embroidery etc. - as the male art cognescenti are currently doing, since to do so will diminish Art itself!

The rise of President Donald Trump in the USA and the way he views women as sexual opportunities means that for women to be seen as intellectual and creative human beings will always be under challenge by these unintelligent and sexually insecure men.

Women protesting the misogyny of the Trump campaign outside of Trump Tower in New York City.

What is sad and truly disheartening for the younger generation is that within each period of history when women were able to move beyond their body parts (e.g. Joan of Arc, Simone de Beauvoir, Marie Curie etc.) along came the kickers who kicked the next generation of women partly back to roles that these young women thought - were well and truly behind them - it's Groundhog Day! However, don't tell the kickers that one day a singularity will occur that will free the enlightened women and men from this never ending cycle of gain and loss in order to create an androgynous future, that will be blind to color, lineage, gender, and sexual preference! The act of engagement, whether it is with forms of Art or Science or on any other subject, will then be of paramount importance and free of the characterisation of color, lineage, gender, and sexual preference of the creator and the engager!

I am confident that the future does not lie with a distorted vision of gender, but rather the future lies with of those us, who are blind to any categorisation of the creator and the engager of any work of Art! As an Australian I disown the tall poppy syndrome, and so all art must be considered on its merits alone!

[1] H.G. Wells, Time Machine, Heinemann Educational Books, Oxford (1985).

[2] Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, Penguin Books, Ringwood (1981).

[3] Affirmative Action in Australia

[4] Claude Levi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, Penguin BooksRingwood (1963).

[5] J.S. Bruner, The Relevance of Education, Penguin Education, Ringwood (1974).

[6] Michael O’Shaughnessy and Jane Stadler, Media and Society An Introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford (2003).

[7] Betty White Plays Football

[8] James Monaco, The Dictionary of New Media, HEP, New York (2000).

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Contemporary Japanese Textile Creations [1]
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Contemporary Japanese Textile Creations
Hidden away in dark corners, brilliantly displayed on hanging racks, or folded neatly on shelves, beautiful Japanese textiles reveal themselves to the casual and the avid shopper alike. With their beauty and value in mind, Japanese shopkeepers mull over ways to display these creations. Some pieces have obvious functions - a wall hanging or a drape for the sofa - while others invite more thought for their display and require a great deal of ingenuity.

Maureen Duxbury combined a solid purple kimono of the Showa era with a Taisho-era obi of a different shade of purple[1].

Showing how Japanese textiles can be displayed will stimulate your interest to visually presenting traditional Japanese textiles in a more contemporary household format.

Pretty flowers and grasses are delicately embroidered by Shizuka Kusano in a very modern setting, enhancing an otherwise featureless wall[1].

Naomi Hoff used an old kimono to make a contemporary bedspread with striking color combinations[1].

A patchwork quilt made by Sunny Yang using various geometric and traditional Japanese designs from indigo-dyed cotton yukata fabrics. Note that it dramatically enhances the light coloured background[1].

In creating cushions, Shizuka Kusano used traditional techniques and motifs of Japanese embroidery, adding original designs to meet contemporary tastes and practical needs[1].

A two-panel folding screen by Maureen Duxbury with a Heian-period (794 AD – 1185) hunting scene from a formal kimono of the late Taisho era (1912 - 1926) completes the formality of the table setting[1].

Blue and white yukata (cotton kimono) fabric is used for a fan-shaped placemat with matching napkins by Tomoyo Tsuchiya[1].

Embroidery placemats are always a featured item. The basic techniques of Japanese embroidery are displayed in this sampler by Sachiko Suzuki: suganui (autumn flowers and grasses), sashinui (peony), nuikiri (mum), warinui (leaves), matsurinui (outline of leaves), and komanui (couching)[1].

To create sculpture-like wall-hangings Masako Hayashibe weaves with natural fibers dyed with natural dyes. Wire produces the dramatic three-dimensional effect[1].

The wall decoration of junior-hitoe (twelve unlined robes) embroidered by Sachiko Suzuki[1].

The embroidery of Seji Ishikawa is unique for its woven appearance. His wall decoration is embellished with peonies[1].

The image of clouds and skies are beautifully expressed by Akiko Shimanuki using a primitive weaving technique, in which the warp threads between two bars are braided by fingers [1].

[1] S. Yang, and R.M. Narasin, Textile Art of Japan, Shufunotomo, Tokyo (1989).

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Japanese Prints (Part III) [1]
Works on Paper

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

For you convenience I have listed the other posts in this series below.
Japanese Prints (Part I)
Japanese Prints (Part II)

Introduction [1]
Seventeenth-century Japan saw the rise in popularity of the woodblock printed book, which was largely due to increased literacy amongst the townspeople. It was in the book and album format that Ukiyo-e printed designs first appeared, and from these that individual sheet prints developed in the late 1680s. Throughout the Edo period (1615 - 1858), the most important Ukiyo-e artists, such as Utamaro and Hokusai, continued to produce designs for both book and single print formats.

The majority of Ukiyo-e prints were designed to be pasted on the walls of Japanese houses as a comparatively cheap but high quality alternative to paintings. Indeed, some of the earliest examples were made in imitation of comparatively tall and thin format similar in size to the hanging scroll. Although prints occurred in a variety of different yet standard sizes, by the mid 1770s the oban format, which measures approximately 38 x 25 cm had become the most common. From an early date artists also produced designs which spread over two, three or more sheets such as diptychs, triptychs and so on. While each sheet stood as a unified composition in its own right, the group was designed to be viewed in its entirety as a continuous scene.

The size of some of the other prints was dictated by their function, such as the tall and extremely narrow pillar print, which was intended to be displayed on the column of a house. Fan prints were also produced, both for the folding fan (obi) and more commonly, for the rigid fan (uchiwa), as cheap and fashionable substitutes for the printed fan leaf. Both the folding and rigid fans consisted of two fan leaves for the front and back respectively, with some form of support inserted in between the two. In the case of the uchowa, this was generally a piece of bamboo which formed the handle at one end and which was split and splayed at the other to form numerous thin splints. Artists such as Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, Kunisada and Sadahide all specialised in fan prints for the uchiwa fan.

Japanese Prints (Part III) [1]

"Peonies and Irises" by Kubo Shummman (1757 - 1820). Surimono, inscribed poems. According to the inscription, this set of surimono was commissioned by the Mist Club, a poetry club, a fact which would also account for the inclusion of poetry on the print. This example made use of metallic powders and blind printing for peonies. Shumman specialised in surimono [1].

The actor Bandō Mitsugorō III in the seven chief roles of the Chūshinura (Tale of the 47 Ronin) drama, 1822, by Utagawa Toyokuni (1769 - 1825). Despite the portrayal of the different roles played by the actor on this print, it is possible to make out the identical facial features of the one man [1].

"Waves and Plovers" (ca. 1820) by Katsushika Hokusai (1760 - 1849). From a series of bird, fish and flowers. This is an example of an azure-e, or a print that is executed predominantly in tones of blue. Plovers, who often inhabit seaside areas, fly in groups following a circular or wave-like pattern. In poetry, moreover, they were frequently referred to as drops given off by the waves. It became customary to depict waves and plovers together [1].

"The falls of Roben at Oyama in Soshu Province" (ca. 1827) by Katsushika Hokusai (1760 - 1849). From the series - "Going the round of the waterfalls of the country." [1]

"The stone bridge at Shinzan over the Aji River, Osaka, 1838" by Yashima Gakutei (1786? - 1868). From the series - "Views of Mount Tempō, Osaka". Gakutei was a pupil of Hokusai, and the influence of his master is clearly seen in this print, which also successfully combines the use of vibrant blue, yellow and green [1].

Scene from a play with an unidentified actor playing a hooded woman who shines her lantern at another actor, who shields his face with his hat (ca. 1830) by Shunkōsai Hokuei (active from ca. 1829 - 37). Diptych. This print successfully portrays the darkness of night, contrasted with the light from the latter, Hokuei played a prominent part in a group of artists who worked in Osaka and who specialised in theatrical prints [1].

The various processes involved in print making by Utagawa Toyokuni (1769 - 1825). Triptych. Toyokuni has added interest to the design by displaying women in full dress instead of the male craftsman one would expect. The right-hand print depicts a woman with the original drawing pasted onto the wooden block; the middle print shows the block being cut while another woman is sizing paper; the left-hand print portrays pots of color, brushes, the baron or pad and a prepared block for taking impression [1].

"Autumn Moon at Ishiyama by Andō Hiroshige (1797 - 1858). From the series - "Eight Views of Lake Biwa (1830 - 35)". The popular "Eight Views" theme was derived from Chinese representation of the "Eight Views of Xiao and Xiang Rivers" in Hunan province. Hiroshige's version of the "Eight Views of Lake Biwa" includes some superb examples of atmospheric conditions, such as rain, and the portrayal of night with appropriate colors [1].

[1] J. Hutt, Japanese Prints, Studio Editions Ltd, London (1996).