Hokusai’s rice farmers

The Artdog Image of Interest 

Throughout September, the Artdog Images of Interest will highlight pieces of artwork by respected masters from around the world, that highlight the value of labor.

This woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai dates to about 1835-6, and is the first of an incomplete series based on the poems collected in a famous anthology, A Hundred Poems by a Hundred Poets, collected by Fujiwara no Teika in 1235. 

The poem that inspired the print is attributed to Emperor Tenchi Tenno, in which he “expresses empathy for his hard-working subjects.”

One might debate how much empathy an emperor could have for a rice farmer, but the value of the farmers’ labor to the Japanese economy and culture, both in Tenchi’s time and later, is hard to overestimate. They not only fed his empire; in the Emperor’s role as a Shinto priest, many of his duties “revolved around rice-growing.” To this day, rice is still Japan’s staple grain.

IMAGE: The best image I could find online of this work is from MUZÉO. Many thanks to them, for publishing such a fine image. You can buy an open-edition copy that’s even better quality from them, if you like it. I also am indebted to Scholten Japanese Art, for the story behind the print.

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jansgephardt

Kansas City-based Jan S. Gephardt is a writer, artist, and teacher. She makes nationally-recognized paper sculpture and writes sf mystery novels about a sapient police dog.

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