Ferry Across the Rokugo River

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Ferry Across the Rokugo River (Torii Kiyonaga, 1752 to 1815)Ferry Across the Rokugo River (Torii Kiyonaga, 1752 to 1815)

Some say Torii Kiyonaga was the grand master of Ukiyo-e prints. He produced these using a series of carved wooden blocks, and intended them to decorate the homes of prosperous merchants. This picture is what is left of a set of three panels called a triptych. I do not know how or when the left hand panel went missing, but I know it was a great pity. I would have loved to see who else is in the boat.

Torii Kiyonaga lived at a time when Japanese people were obsessed with the minutiae of human life, including what went on behind closed doors. I prefer to ignore these aspects of his work, and focus on his social landscapes such as this one instead.

He introduced a less formal style of painting, and was especially interested in the female form as depicted here. His deep sensuous tones contrasted by delicate shades are almost extraordinary for his times. I find the delicate expression of the horizon in the background quite superb. It is as if he wished he were a young boy set free to go fishing and climbing mountains again.

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