I'm going to be extremely biased here and come out and state that the art hailing from the island of Japan is some of the most evocative, moving and simply beautiful pieces of expression ever committed to paper.
Whether it is the simple beauty in the pencil strokes of Hasegawa Tōhaku, the color and space found in a Hokusai piece, the subtle wonder found in the words of Banana Yoshimoto, or the grace of Issa's haikus, Japanese art has a wonderfully succinct and explosively passionate way of describing its surroundings. For me, at least.
Having been homaged in abundance since becoming a mainstay in Ancient Japanese culture, the art of ukiyo-e painting and woodblock prints has recently seen a new and unsurprising muse spring out of the Tall Grass. And, you know what? It actually kinda makes me wish #Pokemon existed in 17th Century Japan.
Based on the art of Hiroshige Utagawa and Yoshitoshi, our favorite Pocket Monsters come to life in the docile world of Ancient Japan.
Based on Hiroshige's seminal 'Kanagawa: View of the Embankment' ('Kanagawa, dai no kei') from the Edo Period (1615-1868), Pokemon have descended upon the banks of Kanagawa Prefecture and it makes my heart jump!
Here's the original for comparison.
Seriously though, how cute is this painting? Look how happy the 'mons are!
And this next painting sees Snorlax embroiled in battle with Ash and his trusty Pikachu in a homage to Tsukioka Yoshitoshi's amazing 'Yoshitsune and Benkei at Gojō Bridge'.
Here's the original for comparison.
Published in 1881, 'Yoshitsune and Benkei at Gojō Bridge' is a depiction of a legendary battle between warrior-monk Benkei (left) and the young, yet resoundingly skilled, warrior Minamoto no Yoshitsune (right). Taking swords from passers-by, at force, Benkei battles the heroic Minamoto no Yoshitsune, and manages to remove his disguise (the silk robe under his right foot). But that is all he is able to do to the young monk.
Impressed by his ability, Benkei swore his allegiance to the young warrior. And the rest, as it were, was ancient history.
It's wonderful how these creations have managed to capture the humor and the awesome nature of both Pokemon and Japanese history respectively.
What Is Ukiyo-e?
Otherwise known as "pictures of the floating world", Ukiyo-e is an artform that found its ascendancy once Japan's lower classes found financial stability. Based on the giddy, hedonic lifestyle that an increase in capital brings, the paintings and woodblock prints were initially focussed on subjects such as kabuki actors, beautiful women, erotica, sumo wrestlers, landscapes and folktales.
Mainly adorning the walls of the affluent, it wasn't until late in the 18th Century that Ukiyo-e would reach its creative peak, with artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige dominating the scene. Hokusai's 'Great Wave off Kanagawa' being, possibly, the most famous piece to come from the time.
And with this explosion of specialist art, I can't not mention the emergence of Nishiki-e, which brought multicolor to the artform. We have printmaker Suzuki Harunobu to thank for it.
A seamless blending of past and future, Ukiyo-e is an utter artistic inspiration and went on to enthrall the West during its era of Japonism. Even titans of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism like Monet and Van Gogh were moved by the art that had spread from the island.
And that was a short history of how Ukiyo-e featuring Pokemon came to land upon your eyes. The blending of past and present culture has never been so beautiful.