An exhibition opening this weekend at the Art Institute of Chicago plunges into the vast archives of renowned Japanese ukiyo-e artists Katsushika Hokusai (previously) and Utagawa Hiroshige (previously). Fantastic Landscapes brings together the vivid scenes created by the prolific printmakers through the first half of the 19th Century with a particular focus on their innovative uses of color. Peach skies, grassy bluffs in chartreuse, and their extensive applications of Prussian blue—Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” famously layers the chemical pigment—mark a broader shift in the artform. Today, the pair are largely attributed with sparking a worldwide fascination with Japanese prints.
Explore some of the woodblock works on view as part of Fantastic Landscapes below, and see them in person between July 17 and October 11. You also might enjoy this monumental book compiling Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji and Hiroshige’s delightful shadow puppets.
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Ukrainian photographer Alexander Ladanivskyy travels the world in search of spectacular images including idyllic scenes of Icelandic waterfalls, ancient mountain cities in Jordan, and the collision of history and modernity in Nepal. Last April, he teamed up with the Ministry of Tourism in Egypt to shoot one of the most photographed landmarks on Earth: the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Not satisfied with recreating perspectives found on postcards and Instagram feeds, Ladanivskyy instead used a drone to shoot the 4,600-year-old structure squarely from above at different altitudes.
The series offers an uncanny view of Giza and manages to flatten the 450-foot building into an abstract collection that appears more like a cobblestone courtyard than a 92-million-cubic-foot stack of boulders. Each photo zeroes in on the pyramid’s tip, or pyramidion, which was once topped by an immense capstone that some speculate may have been gilded with gold. The area is now covered with centuries of graffiti, names etched in stone before the pyramid was more closely guarded. You can explore more of Ladanivskyy’s wide-ranging travel photography on Instagram. (thnx, Anastasia!)
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In 2021, it’s rare to stumble upon a work by Vincent van Gogh that hasn’t been previously identified, but researchers recently uncovered a few early drawings slipped inside one of the Dutch artist’s books. Now on view as part of Here to Stay at the Van Gogh Museum, the newly discovered bookmark has been hidden for about 135 years and dates back to autumn 1881, when the artist was in his late 20s and living in his parents’ village of Etten.
Depicting three single figures in a vertical line, the pencil sketches were found inside the artist’s copy of Histoire d’un Paysan, an illustrated novel by Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian that details the French Revolution from the perspective of a peasant in Alsace. Van Gogh mailed the book, which he first inscribed with his name, to his friend and fellow artist Anthon van Rappard in 1883, saying “I do think you’ll find the Erckmann-Chatrian beautiful.”
Van Rappard sat for a drawn portrait with van Gogh not long after receiving the novel, which was held by the family of van Rappard’s wife until the Van Gogh Museum purchased it in 2019. Despite their friendship, the pair had a falling out in 1885 after van Rappard criticized the lithograph “The Potato Eaters” (1885).
The discovery will be on view alongside artifacts and other artworks acquired by the Amsterdam museum in the last decade through September 12. (via Artnet)
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Master the playful art of shadow puppetry with a little help from Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858). The prolific ukiyo-e artist, who is best known for his poetic woodblock prints of the Tōkaidō and views of Edo, also created an instructive series of omocha-e, or toy pictures intended for kids, that demonstrates how to twist your hands into a snail or rabbit or grasp a mat to mimic a bird perched on a branch. Appearing behind a translucent shoji screen, the clever figures range in difficulty from simple animals to sparring warriors and are complete with prop suggestions, written instructions for making the creatures move— “open your fingers within your sleeve to move the owl’s wings” or “draw up your knee for the fox’s back”—and guides for full-body contortions.
Prints of the eight-figure chart shown above, which Hiroshige released in 1842, are available from Flashbak, and you can explore a massive archive containing thousands of his works on The Minneapolis Institute of Art’s site. (via Present & Correct)
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A Trio of Visual Catalogs Celebrates the Innovative Figures Who Pioneered Modern Information Graphics
A new book set honors the lives and legacies of three figures who fundamentally altered the way we communicate and organize data still today. Information Graphic Visionaries is a catalog trio dedicated to educator and entrepreneur Emma Willard, statistician and founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale, and scientist Étienne-Jules Marey, who all brought insight and clarity to the modern world by conveying complex information in visually compelling and convincing manners. Edited by RJ Andrews of Info We Trust with art direction by Lorenzo Fanton, the series unveils these previously overlooked histories through newly discovered graphics and prominent works paired with contextual essays and annotations.
Through a combination of atlases, wall hangings, and textbook woodcut graphics, Emma Willard: Maps of History explores how Willard invented new conceptions of time and ultimately defined chronology in the United States. Florence Nightingale: Mortality & Health Diagrams contains the nurses’ persuasive designs that ultimately sparked vital reforms to the English health care system. And the Étienne-Jules Marey volume is the first English translation of the French scientist’s seminal text on data visualization, The Graphic Method, La Méthode Graphique, which was first published in 1885.
After launching May 11, Information Graphic Visionaries is already nearing its goal on Kickstarter, but you still have time to back the project.
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The Gaze: Barry Jenkins Directs a Stunning Non-Narrative Film that Preserves the Legacy of Black Ancestors
At the heart of Barry Jenkins’s extraordinarily moving new film is “the Black gaze; or the gaze distilled.” The Oscar-winning director shot the standalone project while filming the TV adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, which premiered on May 14. Notably titled The Gaze, the parallel project isn’t an episode of the series but rather a compelling collection of non-narrative portraits captured spontaneously alongside the show.
Early on in production, Jenkins says in a statement, “I looked across the set and realized I was looking at my ancestors, a group of people whose images have been largely lost to the historical record. Without thinking, we paused production on The Underground Railroad and instead harnessed our tools to capture portraits of… them.”
Presented in the same order as the series which moves from Georgia to Indiana, the vignettes spotlight both principal and background actors who wear striking period costumes by Caroline Eselin—the designer also collaborated with Jenkins on his lauded films Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. Each shot is an intimate and evocative portrayal of imagined kin. “We halted our filming many times for moments like these. Moments where… standing in the spaces our ancestors stood, we had the feeling of seeing them, truly seeing them and thus, we sought to capture and share that seeing with you,” the director says.
Jenkins writes that he was inspired by Kerry James Marshall’s “Scipio Moorhead, Portrait of Himself, 1776,” which is an earnest rendering of the African American artist who actively painted throughout the 1770s while he was enslaved. Marshall’s homage secures Moorhead’s legacy in an urgent and necessary act of visual documentation that Jenkins replicates:
We have sought to give embodiment to the souls of our ancestors frozen in the tactful but inadequate descriptor “enslaved,” a phrase that speaks only to what was done to them, not to who they were nor what they did… This is an act of seeing. Of seeing them. And maybe, in a soft-headed way, of opening a portal where THEY may see US, the benefactors of their efforts, of the lives they LIVED.
Jenkins notes that The Gaze contains only abstracted scenes so it won’t spoil The Underground Railroad. Watch the entire film above, and read the director’s essay describing the project on Vimeo. (via Kottke)
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.