Artist: Katsushika Hokusai
Title: Suspension Bridge between Hida and Etchü
Date: c. 1833 - 1834
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Emotionally evocative and compositionally fantastic, this design is one of the most memorable in Hokusai's Bridge series. A peasant couple, each carrying a heavy load, make a dangerous crossing of a fragile and swinging bridge of bamboo and cord, which is suspended across a chasm full of pines and mist. They are at the midway point, the most critical position, where every motion of the bridge is magnified, and they must proceed with utmost caution to reach the safety of the far side. Hokusai, as usual, mixes Western and Japanese perspectives, sacrificing a scientifically correct depiction of the scene to create a sense of immediacy and drama. By lowering the horizon, he brings an intense focus on the figures in their hazardous task, evoking a sense of compassion for the couple's harsh rural life. Hokusai is sometimes criticized for creating powerful compositions that reglect the emotional aspects of his subjects. In this print, he reveals his capacity also to create evocative work--not by the moods that Horishige, his competitor, commanded, but through the sheer strength of the composition. The subtle colors - yellow, browns, greens in the pinnacles - stand against the intensely deep blue in the peaks beyond, further creating a sense of danger. (Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, “Hokusai and Hiroshige”, 1998)