Text Domenico Paris
Every forthshortening of nature reveals his poetic and metaphysical essence. Each feminine figure reveals a sign of grace. He never stops giving himself a challenge, he always examines inspiration and talent.
Until 14th January 2018, Ara Pacis in Rome will host ‘Hokusai. Sulle orme del maestro’, a collection of two-hundred polychrome xylographies and hanging scroll paintings, which compare the Japanese master with some artists, first of all Keisan Eisen, who, starting from his teaching, revolutionised the ukiyo-e, the ‘Pictures of the floating world’ made famous by the artistic Japanese printings between the 17th and the 20th Century.
We talked about this with the curator of the exhibition, Rossella Menegazzo University of Milan.
An experimenter and a big-time artist: who really was Hokusai?
«Both things, and with no contradiction. It is necessary to think that even before Japan opened to the Occident, Edo’s master was already famous in the Country, where he was also known for his legendary eccentricity, which not only manifested itself in every type of techniques and subjects, but also with the use of different heteronyms or by constantly changing residence».
What is the difference compared to the tradition of ukiyo-e and, more generally, compared to the painting of Japan which preceded him?
«As shown by the famous Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji, in his works the landscape is depicted in more scrupulous codes, both from a composition and metaphorical point of view. Often painting on small sheets 20 x 30, he introduced the rigour of Occidental perspective and the marvellous use of Prussian blue. Moreover, he was able to give his views, but also his composed feminine beauties, a sense of universality which he did not know before».
Can you recognise remarkable differences in his approach to feminine beauty compared to Eisen?
«Eisen surely trained following Hokusai’s lesson, but his women are less ethereal and idealized, much more terrestrial. Probably Van Gogh was fascinated by this ‘resolute’ characteristic».
Does the great success of Hokusai manga make him the forerunner of modern manga somehow?
«In part. Hokusai’s manga have been conceived as sought-after illustrations on the market of the time and as didactic tools. It is also true that the attention for the development of figures and the use of a quick touch create an undeniable connection with the universe of modern manga».