Hiroshige: Masterworks of Ukiyo-e


“Hokusai and Hiroshige, who are generally held to be the greatest of the nineteenth century ukiyo-e artists, both died penniless. (Hiroshige’s will contains passages explaining in detail how the mortgage on his newly bought house should be paid off. Hokusai, toward the end of his life, wrote to his publisher asking for money, saying that he had not even enough clothes to keep himself warm.)”

“Unlike most ukiyo-e artists who came mostly from very humble origins, Hiroshige’s family was one of moderate respectability…” [Both he and his dad were fire wardens]

“In [Toyokuni’s] studio at that time were already such noted artists as Kunisada and Kuniyoshi, and had Hiroshige worked with them it is unlikely that he would have had the freedom to develop that he enjoyed under Toyohiro.”

some interesting info I found in the Hiroshige volume of the Masterworks of Ukiyo-e series

Pie: A Global History


“At that time [the eighteenth century] meals were served in the style that came to be called a la francaise (as distinct from the style we use today, service a la russe, in which individual dishes are served sequentially to guests). Two or more courses would each consist of a variety of dishes set out simultaneously on the table with geometric precision and an eye for symmetry.”

“There is one other historic fruit pie that deserves special mention: a pie made from an exotic, imported and therefore expensive fruit candied with expensive sugar. Orengeado is candied orange peel, and it was enormously popular from Elizabethan times until well into the eighteenth century.”

some interesting info I found in Pie: A Global History

May by Karel Hynek Mácha


“Until Macha, Czech poets and writers had privileged patriotism over aestheticism. And May is by no means a political or patriotic poem.”

“The Germanization of the Czech lands after the Hapsburg invasion of 1620 nearly destroyed Czech language and literature.. . It also exposed Czech nationalists to European intellectual and literary currents, which eventually allowed for a modernization of Czech verse. ”

“Macha also experimented with various degrees of onomatopoeia, setting the mood of a stanza through the sounds of the words, as when the prisoner’s chains thunder. He uses silence, as indicated by the long dash, as well as sound, as when the prisoner marks the passing of time with the sound of a water drop.”

“Like Vilem, Macha considered himself an outsider. He was preoccupied with questions of death and eternity, and he was obsessed with a woman of questionable honor. He also died young, just before his twenty-sixth birthday, on November 5, 1836.”

some interesting information from the introduction to May by Karel Macha

The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald


“They say it is rare for any of the fishermen to establish contact with his neighbour, for, although they all look eastward and see both the dusk and the dawn coming up over the horizon, and although they are all moved, I imagine, by the same unfathomable feelings, each of them is nonetheless quite alone and dependent on no one but on himself and on the few items of equipment he has with him, such as the penknife, a thermos flask, or the little transistor radio that gives forth a scarcely audible, scratchy sound, as if the pebbles being dragged back by the waves were talking to each other.”

“An idiosyncrasy peculiar to the herring is that, when dead, it begins to glow; this property, which resembles phosphorescence and is yet altogether different, peaks a few days after death and then ebbs away as the fish decays.”

“I suppose it is submerged memories that give to dreams their curious air of hyper-reality.”

“The shadow of night is drawn like a black veil across the earth, and since almost all creatures, from one meridian to the next, lie down after the sun has set, so, he continues, one might, in following the setting sun, see on our globe nothing but prone bodies, row upon row, as if leveled by the scythe of Saturn.”

some quotes I loved from Rings of Saturn

William Morris: Masterpieces of Art


“Following the loss of his wife to another, Morris became more absorbed in his work, and in 1868, began to translate Norse legends with a Cambridge scholar Eirikr Magnusson (1833-1913), which culminated in the publication of The Saga of Gunnlaag and The Grettis Saga in 1869.”

“This next work was an epic poem, The Life and Death of Jason (see 1895 Kelmscott edition, above), which despite its title actually gave centre stage to the female protagonist, Medea, who helped Jason in his quest for the Golden Fleece.”

“Dresser, however, chose an alternative route to this ‘modern’ style by developing an Anglo-Japanese aesthetic.”

“Many of the ceilings, as well as the hall, stairs and landing [of the Red house], were decorated by Morris in abstract geometric patterns. Burne-Jones was commissioned to design stained-glass windows and to paint murals of medieval scenes of chivalrous deeds on the walls. Morris also designed and wove many of the textiles, such as tapestries and curtains and other soft furnishings. Webb too was kept busy designing furniture and fittings for the new house, much of it rustic and heavy in design so as to keep to a medieval aesthetic”

some interesting quotes from William Morris: Masterpieces of Art

The Sumi-e Book by Yolanda Mayhall


“Sumi-e was woven from four strands, called the Four Gentlemen: Bamboo, Wild Orchid, Chrysanthemums, and Plum Branch.”

“Sumi-e helps the painter remember the beauty of familiar sights: the way a lizard looks and moves on a bamboo leaf, a bird on the wing capturing a butterfly, a dragonfly hovering over twisted grasses, a bee darting from flower to flower.

suzuri – piece of slate the sumi stick is rubbed on

“For most sumi-e compositions, start in the foreground and work back.”

“Paint soft things like fur & downy feathers with a light wash. For harder objects, such as birds’ beaks and legs, use darker, thicker paint.”

some useful information from The Sumi-e Book by Yolanda Mayhall

The Magic Ring: Russian Folktales from Alexander Afanasiev’s Collection


“At the end of three days he returned with two small flasks: the water of life in one, the water of death in the other. The Wolf took the two flasks, ripped the young raven apart, sprinkled the water of death over it–and two halves joined together. Then he sprinkled the water of life over it–and the young raven flapped its wings and flew off. Next the Grey Wolf sprinkled Prince Ivan’s body with the water of death–and the wounds healed. Then he sprinkled the body with the water of life–and Prince Ivan stood up and said: ‘How long have I slept?'”

“The king ordered the princess to be executed: the unfaithful wife was tied to the tail of a wild stallion which was set loose upon the open plain. The stallion flew like the wind, dashing her snow-white body against the gullies and steep ravines.”

“The girl put her ear to the ground and heard Baba Yaga coming. At once she threw down her towel–and a wide, wide river appeared. The witch had to stop at the river, gnashing her teeth in fury. She returned home, took her oxen, drove them to the river, and the oxen drank the river clean. Then off she rushed again in pursuit. The girl once more put her ear to the ground and heard the witch getting near. Straightway she threw down her comb–and a dense, dark forest appeared. The witch began to gnaw through it, but it was too much for her and she had to turn back.”

some interesting scenes from The Magic Ring: Russian Folktales from Alexander Afanasiev’s Collection


Japanese Books – Ima wa mukashi


images taken from the Boston Museum of Fine Art‘s collection

“…Imawa-mukashi (a simple translation of which would be ‘Once upon a time. . .’, though the opening characters can also mean ‘stories of strange demons’).

“There is one other inexplicable feature of Imawa-mukashi: it repeats several creatures, in almost unchanged form, that appear in a painted scroll by the Maruyama/Shijo artist Komai Genki.”

“. . . by showing the awful unnerving effect of the apparitions on ordinary human beings, Shunei heightens their terrifying aspect.”

“. . . [I]n the three volumes comprising the work, there is limited colour-printing, but it is invariably effective, eerily highlighting bloodstains, or menacing shapes, like the bulk of the ogre-mountain, printed a sullen red in the original.”

~from The Art of the Japanese Book by Jack Hillier

The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa


“Dreams are severed fruit
Auburn pears have fallen in the field
Parsley blooms on the plate
Sometimes the leghorn appears to have six toes
I crack and egg and the moon comes out.”

“Rains like flower petals.
Hit by a heavy weight, insects descend the tree shade.
Gathering at the mast wall, trailing a faint breeze – sounds are killed by the sun, the waves.
My skeleton places white flowers upon it.
Interrupted by thoughts, fish climb the cliffs.”

“A butterfly landed on the pipe organ on the rooftop garden
The unseasonable syllables wrench the lady’s heart
The bouquet is torn away    the fire does not burn
Outside the window a deer passes by, trampling on the stars
At the ocean bottom, fish mock the weather    people put on their glasses
This year, too, the widowed moon deceives its age.”

some of the poems I enjoyed from Chika Sagawa’s collected poems

A Companion to the Iliad by Malcolm M. Willcock


“The strongest oath which the Gods could swear by was the river Styx, the river of the underworld.”

“Typhoeus was the last of the opponents of Zeus, a monstrous creature, not human in shape like the giants or Titans. He was cast down beneath the surface of the Earth by the thunderbolts of Zeus, and his stirring there, on his hard bed of stone, served to explain local earth tremors and volcanic activity.”

hecatomb = large sacrifice of animals to a god

“aegis – a supernatural weapon of Zeus, normally defensive, but when shaken in the face of an enemy, strikes terror in their hearts.”

some quotes and info I found interesting from A Companion to the Iliad by Malcolm M. Willcock