The Green Pages: SONGS OF THE GARDEN (Printed Media, Books, Magazines)

Printed Media, Books, Magazines
Author: Kitagawa Utamaro
Publisher: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
ISBN-13: 0-87099-368-2 [Metropolitan Museum]

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I found two books by Utamaro on a shelf of books at a local thrift store. The other book was titled "A Chorus of Birds."

I bought both for $2.50 each... took them home... researched the author... and only then, for no apparent reason, I opened this one up.

What I found was a book largely unlike any others I'd ever seen. Fifteen designs in each of the two books form double-page illustrations... each illustration depicts two species accompanied by two poems.

I chose two pages to illustrate the beauty of each illustration, the configuration of the book and the two poems on each double-page.
In this one, the two species with their accompanying poems are a butterfly and a dragonfly. The poem for the butterfly reads.........................
"I wish
I could become a butterfly,
For in my dream
I would lick the lips of the sweetheart
For whom I long."
Thumb of 2022-01-13/jathton/f8663a

The second illustration contains a red dragonfly and a locust. The poem for the red dragonfly reads.........
"Burning with love
Enduring the pain in silence,
I have wasted away to a skeleton
Like a thin red dragonfly."
Thumb of 2022-01-13/jathton/32d986

I learned Utamaro [1753-1806] was one of the most highly regarded masters of ukiyo-e woodblock prints in Japan during the Edo Period [17th to 19th centuries]. He appears to have achieved a national reputation at a time when even the most popular Edo ukiyo-e artists were little known outside the city.

When I began studying garden design the ancient, classic gardens in Kyoto and Edo were my first love. Shortly after graduation I was given the opportunity to design a complex Japanese garden for a couple whose children were grown and for whom a backyard lawn was no longer necessary. It was a fascinating experience that lay a foundation for loving Japanese gardens and art ever since.

Utamaro lived approximately two hundred years after the golden age of garden design in Kyoto... which produced exquisite gardens such as Kinkaku-ji, Daisen-en, and my personal favorite... Ryoan-ji.

It was gratifying to realize his extraordinary woodblock prints kept these gardens alive in Japan during a period of incredible change.

Both of these books are in "like new" condition. Recently I became curious about their scarcity and plugged the titles into a search engine for rare and out-of-print books. Each book, in new condition, was listed at one hundred dollars and more. I guess that was a good day at the thrift shop.

There is just no thing quite as nice as a good book.

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