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100 Poems Explained by the Nurse: poem by Bun'ya no Tomoyasu
|| New reproduction
||380mm x 260mm
The "100 Poems Explained by the Nurse" (Hyakunin Isshu Uba ga Etoki) is a voluminous set which Hokusai tried in the last part of his life. The set was at first published by Nishi-mura-ya Yohachi (Eiju-do). The book "Azami no Hana Koi no Oguruma" published by him mentions "Hyakunin Isshu Uba ga Etoki" among the advertisements at the end of the volume. This being the first mention of the set, it probably began to be put on sale in that year. It appears, however, that Nishimura's Eiju-do soon gave the copyright over to another publisher named Eiju-do due to business depression. The new Eiju-do was probably a publishing firm run by Ise-ya Sanjiro, for the advertisement in a gokan book published in 1840 by his Eiju-do refers to "Explanation by the Nurse. o-nishiki (o-ban nishiki-e). Finest quality color prints. Brush of Saki no Hokusai Iitsu." Twenty-eight of the set were published, and block copies for forty unpublished prints are reported. They are classifiable into two groups: one illustrating the purports of the poems in the.modes of the ages in which the respective poems were composed, or illustrating anecdotes associated with the poems or tales reminded of by them; and the other in which the subjects of the poems are analogized intothose connected with contemporary life of Edo citizens. The latter are by far the more numerous. Both groups lack that inner strength which characterizes the artist's past works, but their cleverly designed compositions and fresh colors reflect his efforts to show youthful vigor. The Poem by Bun'ya no Tomoyasu illustrates the poem in a somewhat vulgarized manner. The picture bears the poem inscribed within the rectangular cartouche in the upper right part: Shiratsuyu ni Kaze no fuki-shiku Aki-no-no wa Tsuranuki tomen Tama zo chirikeru roughly meaning: "In the autumn field where dewdrops are blown in unceasing wind, fall the beads .that are to be strung," dewdrops being likened to beads for lacing, of course. In fact the fourth line is a wrong quotation from the original poem which reads tsuranuki tomenu (a negative form, meaning "which are not strung"). The illustrated scene is also quite different from one sung in the poem. It is a sight on a lotus pond in wind, in which little boys of the nobility are gathering lotus leaves. The pearly dewdrops on the leaves, and wind blowing the autumn grasses on the bank, are the only suggestions of the poem. Perhaps it is the artist's forced interpretation of the subject as might bs tried by an uneducated nurse. The exaggeratedly twisted forms of the figures, and the overall Chinese-style representation, are characteristics seen in common in Hokusai's late works. The boys operating the rods twist themselves in diverse directions, almost to an unnatural extent. The curves of their boat reveal strong influence of Kanga (Chinese-style painting). Despite such exaggerations, the figures of the boys in movement evidence his anatomical accuracy, and the way the dewdrops are represented by reserved white dots attests to his full understanding of wood-block print technique.
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