|Utagawa Hiroshige I (1797–1858 Japan), New Year’s Eve Foxfires at the Changing Tree, Oji, #118 from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 1857. Color woodcut print on paper, 13 3/8" x 8 5/8" (34 x 22 cm). © Philadelphia Museum of Art. (PMA-836)|
This virtuoso woodblock print depicts a New Year’s tradition about foxes congregating at the hackberry (or pine tree) near the Oji Inari Shrine. It was called “Changing Tree” because the foxes were thought to congregate there and change their “dress” to become presentable for their yearly visit to the shrine. The lights seen by farmers, either swamp gas or luminescent fungi, were ascribed to the foxes and called kitsunebi. Farmers interpreted either the shadows cast or the number of lights for crop successes in the coming year. By the way, there is still a “Changing Tree” on this spot, although the one depicted in the print died and was reverently replaced during the Meiji period (1868–1912).
|S. Riyo (unknown, Japan), New Year’s Post Card with Silhouetted Man in Top Hat, ca. 1925–1928. Color lithograph with metallic pigment on coated card stock, 5 7/16" x 3 7/16" (13.8 x 8.8 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-1075)|
The Japanese traditionally sent surimono (New Year’s cards) with imagery and poems on them. I think this could be called an updated surimon, and an updated bijin-ga. I’m still not sure if this card is depicting an actual man standing in front of the women, or if his shadow is joining theirs on the wall. At any rate, it shows the aesthetic tension between the rapidly industrializing Japan (the “flapper”) and traditional dress (the kimono). I’m sure bobbed hair was just as revolutionary in Japan as it was in the West—women rarely cut their hair in their lifetimes in those days.
|Mary Petty (1899–1976, US), The New Year, original cover illustration for The New Yorker magazine, published 31 December, 1949. Watercolor, ink on paper, 17" x 12 3/8" (43.2 x 31.5 cm). Image © 2016 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. (MOMA-P1770)|
Mary Petty was born in Hampton, NJ, and was more or less a self-taught artist. Already, as young person her drawings had a satiric bent to them. Her cartoonist husband, Alan Dunn (died 1974) suggested she submit her drawings to the New Yorker, and her first drawing in the magazine appeared in 1927. During her career, she produced 273 drawings and 38 ink and watercolor covers, like this one.
|David Gilhooly (1943–2013, US), Going to Frog New Year’s Eve Party, 1977. Glazed ceramic, 18 1/8" x 5 7/8" x 14 3/16" (46 x 15 x 36 cm). Image courtesy of the late artist, © 2016 the artist or artist’s estate. (8S-21640)|
Gilhooly was born in Auburn, CA. At the same time that Pop Art developed in New York (late 1950s to early 1960s), the West Coast developed its own unique version that emphasized technique more than elevations of common objects. He was a member of the avant garde artists group in Davis, CA. These artists did not consider themselves “mainstream” Pop artists. Personal fantasy, often on the raunchy side, was a major component of West Coast Pop.
New Year’s Note: Curator’s Corner was greatly honored to be included in the list of “Top Twenty-Five Art Teacher Blogs” by the Feedspot website at the end of 2016. Please check out their list of the other honorees.