August 15, 2022

Summer Nights

         This is the second part of my selection of block prints depicting summer, and this time I’m focussing on the evening.  As I mentioned in the previous post, the real way to tell that a piece is depicting summer is when people are doing summer activities, and perhaps the most tell-tale summer activity is swimming.  In today’s first piece we see men, women, and children, all frolicking in the shallow water at the shore, while boaters and even a horseback rider are farther out.  The printing technique is chiaroscuro, in which a mid-tone block fills most of the background, with just a bit of white carved out for highlights.  I’m not sure it adds a ton to this particular piece, but it does contribute to an impression of early evening with that ruddy light as the sun begins to go down.
        Next is the summer evening activity for city dwellers: sitting on the front steps visiting with family and friends.  This is a very simple piece, probably printed by hand without a press, given the pale, uneven inking.  The only texture is the wood-grained door.  It’s probably a hot night, without air conditioning to draw everyone inside and away from the community.  I wonder which of these people are couples, or which live in this building, (assuming they aren’t all from different apartments in the same building)?  And how do they know each other?
        The third piece comes from a series entitled “Songs for the Four Seasons,” and features one of my own favorite icons of summer evenings: catching fireflies.  This triptych is from nearly 130 years ago, but shows that despite the invention of bathing suits and air conditioning, some simple joys of summer persist.   Five richly-clad women and their children enjoy the natural light show as darkness falls.  The composition is interesting in that it has 
very little foreground and very little background, and the people are posed across a detailed middle ground.
        When it’s finally fully dark (which can take a long time in the summer in higher latitudes), it’s time for the next light show: fireworks.  This piece shows fireworks - I think! although the style is really interesting in having so many similar lines that it can be hard to parse out the details.  I think it’s cool that you can make out the people as well as you can, given that in some ways the entire paper is just a mush of every-which-way white lines.  Among the details that I do enjoy picking out are birds in the sky, the fish kite to the left, and someone wearing a Chicago Bulls basketball T-shirt in the middle right.  There’s some interesting architecture at the top left, and I do like the look of the fireworks, especially at the top.
        Finally, after all that excitement, we settle down for a peaceful summer night.  Someone’s still out in a boat, and the full moon lights the way, but I’m sure everyone else is getting ready for bed.  No doubt it will be refreshingly cool with the breeze off the water.
        Do you prefer your summer nights to be full of celebration and activity, or peaceful and quiet?  Or perhaps some of each?

[Pictures: Summer Evening, woodcut in black and brown by Auguste Louis Lepere, 1910 (Image from Cleveland Museum of Art);

Summer Evening, from One-Hundred Views of Chicago, woodcut by Bronislaw M. Bak, 1967 (Image from Art Institute Chicago);

Summer - Women and children catching fireflies, woodblock print by Chikanobu Yoshu, 1894 (Image from The Japanese Art Open Database);

Summer Night Harbin, woodcut by He Weimin, 1998 (Image from Art Institute Chicago);

Summer Moon at Miyajima, color woodblock print by Tsuchiya Koitsu, 1936 (Image from Art Institute Chicago).]


Sue Bursztynski said...

I must admit, I enjoy a quiet summer evening, with a walk to the beach which is near where I live. Some great pictures here, Anne, thanks for sharing,

Anonymous said...

I like a quiet summer evening or night. especially when I lived on a lake.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sure and Anonymous. Lucky you, to live near a beach, or on a lake!