Katsushika Hokusai 1760-1849

Pictures of 100 poems by 100 poets, explained by a Wet Nurse
Visipix.com proudly presents Hokusais last great series as complete as possible
(89 pictures) in facsimile quality in the original Oban-size 15 x 10 inch.


Poem number 11
Sangi Takamura (Ono no Takamura) 802-852, counselor to the Emperor

The original poem:
O'er the wide, wide sea,
Towards its many distant isles,
Rowing I set forth.
This, to all the world proclaim,
O ye boats of fisher-folk!

A situational poem by HK:
After a long exile on a remote island my farewell has come, travelling home under full sails, leaving behind me the beautiful nude girls diving for abalone while the passing fishermen like always continue to be fishing also for exciting glimpses.

Comment by HK:
Hokusai - not the poem - tells us that the longing for the spiritual security of home is stronger than any sensual temptation - including that of beautiful girls.

The three girls on the top of the rock are a tribute to Kitagawa Utamaros famous woodblock from 1798 with "the same three girls". Hokusai made his woodblock about 50 years later.

Utamaro: The abalone divers

Hokusai maybe wants to demonstrate that "a picture can tell more than a thousand words". The whole series might be such a demonstration.

Poem number 12
Sojo Henjo (Yoshimine no Munesada) 816-890, cousin of Emperor Nimmyo

The original poem:
O ye Winds of Heaven!
In the paths among the clouds
Blow, and close the ways,
That we may these virgin forms
Yet a little while detain.

A situational poem by HK:
Angels are so fragile that they can only fly in the clear sky between the clouds. I pray to heavens to cover all the sky with clouds so that our dancing virgin girls may never fly away.

The story:
In autumn, the first rice which is harvested is presented to the Emperor. The unmarried daughters of the nobility dance and are presented to the Emperor. Symbolically, they are ready to be "harvested" too. Munesada is in the audience and wishes that the girls will never go away and compares them with angels.

Comment by HK:
First the positive: The composition is full of fascinatingly corresponding symmetries. The two dancers form almost a mirror symmetry. One sees three trees in the corners of the dance place. The two in front repeat this symmetry. The one on the left together with the one on the upper left corner repeats the translative symmetry element of the dancers. Each element in the composition has its partner element. Almost each member of a group of three participates in several pair-relationships. This is extraordinary.

The negative: The architectural situation is nonsense. Not only is the perspective all wrong. The lines leading into to background are perfectly parallel and therefore they look wrong. The dance floor is looking like the distorted work of bad carpenters. I also do not believe that the dancers would perform on bare grass on a tiny square approx. 16 by 16 feet. The dance platform is on a hill. Only the musicians have a view. The court members below cannot see much. The painter and we, his spectators, are somewhere in midair. I have never seen an Emperor looking down from the 5th floor or from a tree or a cloud. It has been suggested that he is out of the picture at the right side. There is nothing in hat direction.

I believe that Hokusai feared the perspective problems and that his editor pushed him hard to deliver the picture. Remember that Hokusai was an old fox and nobody´s fool. He might have expressed something like this: "Who needs an Emperor, if you can have Hokusai and his audience flying on a cloud?".

Poem number 13
Yozei In 868-949, Emperor

The original poem:
From Tsukuba's peak,
Falling waters have become
Mina's still, full flow:
So my love has grown to be;
Like the river's quiet deeps.

A situational poem by HK:
My loving began as a waterfall turning into a mountain torrent. Now it has changed into the quiet and peaceful flow of deeper water.

Comment by HK:
Hokusai does not show the waterfall and the torrent of the poem. He only shows the quiet river of matured love. The wellbeing of children, women and men, the fruits of work, the trees and the harvest all depend on the river - and on love.

Poem number 14
Kawara no Sadaijin (Minamoto no Toru) 822-895, son of Emperor Saga

The original poem:
Michinoku print
Of Shinobu's tangled leaves!
For whose sake have I,
Like confused, begun to be?
Only yours! I can not change!

A situational poem by HK:
Is our love not strange? Simple as two herons sometimes hiding and sometimes flying together? But also complicated entanglements, interwoven into daily life like the patterns on a fabric from Michinoku?

The situation:
The poem compares love and life with a very complicated pattern of prints on a fabric.

Comment by HK:
Hokusai shows a lot of daily activities. Two scenes are symbolic. Two herons fly together under a bridge symbolising love and fidelity. The bridge unites them like a wedding ring. Circles are symbols of unity. A man and two women ask for the right direction. One has to find the right way - Buddhas path - through life. If the drawing had led to a woodblock print, the costumes of this group would probably have been very colourful and very complex, symbolising the complexity of life.

>> Poems (17 - 20)