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May 4: a favorite: the ingenious Hokusai

Horses are a common subject in art, usually presented in graceful and noble poses like the Stubbs racehorse or Keisai warrior here.

Keisai "Eiyu Gashi" c.1849
Keisai “Eiyu Gashi” c.1849
Stubbs "Baronet with Samuel Chifney" 1791
George Stubbs “Baronet with Samuel Chifney” 1791 []










Then we have the piece below by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Hokusai has contorted his beast into an almost abstract shape, and incorporated it and its rider and the upturned samurai into a wild melange.

from "The Warrior Trilogy" c.1850
from “The Warrior Trilogy” c.1850

After the grand design, the many rich details engage the eye. Nothing is tossed off as a standard item. The arrow feathers–no two alike. The samurai’s hands. The horse’s head: the expression, the shape and texture of the bridle–the knot where the rein is tied to the bit. And on and on–not a rote or boring passage in it.