Feel Art Again: Irises

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Many late-nineteenth century artists became fascinated with Japanese woodblock prints and began producing works influenced by the Japanese art. The term Japonisme refers to those Japanese-inspired works, including paintings by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, and Gustav Klimt. Today I present to you two works of art—the woodblock print "Iris Flowers and Grasshopper" by Hokusai and Vincent van Gogh's painting, "Irises"—and a comparison of the two great artists.

1. While Vincent van Gogh only lived to be 37, Hokusai's most important works were painted well past that age. "Of all I drew prior to the age of 70 there is truly nothing of any great note," wrote Hokusai at age 74.

2. Roger Zelazny's short story, "24 views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai," was inspired by Hokusai. The ballad "Vincent," by Don McLean, was inspired by Vincent van Gogh and includes the lines, "Starry, starry night / Paint your palette blue and gray."

3. Just as many of van Gogh's works were influenced by Japanese works, including those of Hokusai, his own work has influenced many other artists' work. Several paintings by Francis Bacon were based on van Gogh's "The Painter on his Way to Work."

4. Both Hokusai and van Gogh worked until the end. One of van Gogh's works was painted only 6 weeks before his death. Hokusai, at the age of 89, remarked on his deathbed, "If I had another five years, even, I could have become a real painter."

5. Hokusai employed many names, often related to changes in his work. Van Gogh, however, might have benefited from adopting a different name, as his name also belonged to several other members of his family: his grandfather, his stillborn older brother, his uncle (an art dealer), and his grandfather's uncle (a sculptor).

6. The most famous of Hokusai's work is, undoubtedly, "The Great Wave off Kanagawa." Vincent van Gogh's famous works include "The Starry Night," "Sunflowers," and "Irises."

A larger version of "Irises" is available here; a larger version of "Iris Flowers and Grasshopper" is available here.

'Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.

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January 15, 2008 - 2:45am
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