June 24, 2024

When the Living is Easy

         Here we are just past the summer solstice, and of course I need to share some summery relief block prints!  First up is a summer solstice bonfire, although it’s so rough that you have to look twice to make out the figures gathered in the clearing.  Are they druids?  They may be robed, but there’s a seated audience at the lower left which seems slightly out of keeping with druidic ceremonies.  But whoever the people are, the fire lights up a plume of smoke and sparks rising dramatically in the dark forest.
        Today’s second piece represents a summer forest, although I have to confess I wouldn’t really see that without the title to guide me.  I might think these were two flowers, or if I realized they were trees I might think they were in autumn color.  But to me the most summery thing they evoke is ears of corn, which is one of my favorite things about summer!
        One more nighttime view: these women and children are enjoying the evening coolness along the Sumida River.  This is actually a triptych and you can see the three separate pieces that join to make the scene.  My favorite part of it is the black, white, and grey background with its silhouetted boats and bridge, and all the twinkling lights in the verandas.
        The evening may be cool, but this hot summer day is saturated with sunshine.  Even the river looks warm and lazy, although the bees are no doubt as busy as ever.  Unusually for me, my favorite thing about this piece is the colors.
        In contrast, this next midsummer scene captures a thunderstorm brewing.  The sky is fully black at the top, and you can see the dark shadow of that cloud overtaking you in the foreground.  You might want to run to reach the farmhouse before the storm breaks - but it’s probably too oppressive to run.
        I couldn’t feature summer scenes without the beach, so next up is a view of quite a sophisticated picnic on the beach.  They have a fancy picnic basket and carafe, and even a bouquet to add some class.  Maybe it’s just the way their faces are carved, but I fear they may be quite a snooty bunch!  In any case, the wood engraving with its tiny fine crosshatchings and stippling gives the whole thing lots of fine texture.
        Today’s final piece represents June from a series of the twelve months.  I don’t have badgers in my area, so I don’t particularly think of them as summery, but certainly the selection of flowers are busting out all over.  This one makes me think about what I would choose to put in each piece if I were to do a calendar series.  What do you most associate with June, or with the summer solstice?

[Pictures: Summer Solstice Fire, woodcut by Werner Drewes, 1930 (Image from Smithsonian);

Summer Forest (Natsu no mori), color woodblock print by Shiogoshi Yoshinori, 1957 (Image from Art Institute Chicago);

Enjoying the Evening Cool Along the Sumida River, triptych of woodblock prints by Kitagawa Utamaro, c. 1797-8 (Image from The Cleveland Museum of Art);

Bees Take Flight, woodcut by Nick Wroblewski (Image from NickWroblewski.com);

Midsummer Vermont, wood engraving by Asa Cheffetz, 1936 (Image from Philadelphia Museum of Art);

Summer Day, wood engraving by M. Lois Murphy, ca. 1937 (Image from Smithsonian);

June, linocut by Jenny Portlock (Image from JennyPortlock.art).]


Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

I saw those trees as two lemons and thought at once of elderflower cordial. For me elderflowers are June incarnate, the lacey flowers against a blue sky and the smell!

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

That's funny, Charlotte! My mother loves elderflowers, too.

Kristin said...

I especially like the Japanese evening scene and the color scene with the bees. The least favorite is the snooty picnickers.