The Print Project: Hokusai, Monet and Lichtenstein
What happens when Roy Lichtenstein translates mass media printing techniques, notably the Benday dot, into paintings and then back into print? What has happened that the final result does not land back into the banal?
Another story of the path from print into painting and back into print might help explain that.
Much of Monet’s work was influenced by Japanese prints. The prints offer a view of everyday life, emulated by the Impressionists, but they also captured an instant.
So, not only would a Hokusai print depict a flower, but a flower in a particular wind and weather. Note the wings of a the butterfly.
When asked about the origin of Monet’s series of paintings “Grainstacks”, he said that he was working in the field and noticed the light changing. He asked his step-daughter, Blanche, who frequently assisted him, to bring him another canvas, and another and another. He changed the canvases every few minutes to accommodate the changing light.
I think that it is far more likely that Monet’s inspiration for the series came from Hokusai’s “36 Views of Mt. Fuji”. Monet collected Japanese prints and owned several biographies of Hokusai.
In Hokusai’s “36 Views of Mount Fuji”, he captured the iconic mountain under numerous conditions. Monet did the same with his “series paintings”, but perhaps most famously with his Rouen Cathedral paintings. Here, the monolith is transformed by light.
In 1968 Roy Lichtenstein used photos of Monet’s cathedrals for a series of paintings and lithographs, using not the Impressionist dash or even the pointillist’s dot, but the banal Benday dot.
Lichtenstein not only reinterprets Monet’s series, but gives a nod to the original print source of Hokusai.
Prints by Hokusai in Monet’s collection:
Roy Lichtenstein: http://vimeo.com/29233321
Books of interest: