July 5, 2013


        Our town does a pretty nice fireworks display, which three generations of my family enjoyed very much on the evening of July 3 (so as not to compete with the big Boston fireworks extravaganza on the Fourth.)  It occurred to me that fireworks, like block prints, are a design in light on dark, so I decided to search around for some relief printed depictions of fireworks.  Here are some of the highlights of my search.

        Some artists go for relative realism, including Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, whose color woodcut really captures the glowing golden sparkles of some of my favorite fireworks.  The seventeenth century engraving, on the other hand, goes for every detail of what must have been a spectacular pyrotechnic display, but it somehow fails utterly to capture the brightness and light of being there.  It seems more historical than artistic.

        Hiroshige's fireworks appear in two versions.  Which do you like better?  I couldn't decide which I preferred, so I've posted both.  I've actually put the second version first, because this way I think they could be time lapse - first the bright flash, then the fading sparks.

        Other artists are a little more impressionistic or stylized.  Felix Vallotton focuses on the ooh and aah of the crowd, although I have to say they don't look as happy or festive as our town crowd on Wednesday night.  Fumio Fukita's color kaboom is certainly more festive, and I do tend to like being able to focus on a single beautiful firework at a time.  But I think Frans
Masereel's fireworks display over a city best captures the sheer exuberance of fireworks.  This must be the grand finale with all kinds of fireworks going off in all directions all at once, lighting up the whole sky.
        I do like fireworks!

[Pictures: Fireworks in Paris, woodcut by Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, 1908 (Image from All-Art);
From the reception for Louis XIII and Anne of Austria in 1622, engraving (Image from Fulltable.com, where there are also some other images of fireworks);
Fireworks at Ryogoku (two versions), woodcuts by Hiroshige, 1857-58 (Images from Wikimedia Commons and Honolulu Museum);
The World's Fair 6, woodcut by Félix Vallotton, 1901 (Image from Galerie Maximillian);
Flowers of Edo, woodblock print by Fumio Fukita, 1990 (Image from Scriptum);
Fireworks, woodcut by Franz Masereel from The City, 1925 (Image from Studio and Garden).]

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