O is for Origin Story

(left to right) Lithography stone; 0 from Jasper Johns, 0–9, 1963. 10 lithographs, 20 5/8 x 15 1/2 in.; Jasper Johns, Target, 1960. Lithograph, 22 1/2 x 17 1/2 in; Both Johns prints published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

(left to right) Lithography stone; 0 from Jasper Johns, 0–9, 1963. 10 lithographs, 20 5/8 x 15 1/2 in.; Jasper Johns, Target, 1960. Lithograph, 22 1/2 x 17 1/2 in; Both Johns prints published by Universal Limited Art Editions. John and Maxine Belger Foundation © Jasper Johns and ULAE / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

I like that Jasper Johns looked at a blank lithography stone and decided the first image he would make with it was a zero. (I learned this fact on a recent staff tour of our current exhibition with Assistant Curator Renée Maurer.) It’s not difficult to imagine how a target came next–its basis is also a circle, also a symbol, but instead of quantifying nothingness, a target represents a very specific goal. Giotto famously demonstrated his artistic prowess  by drawing a perfect circle without the aid of a compass. By beginning his printmaking career with the continuous, curved shape of infinity–first zeroed out, then honed in–Johns inscribed seemingly limitless potential.

Cecilia Wichmann, Publicity and Marketing Manager

Views of Paris, Views of Japan

Henri Rivière, Planche 25, Dans la tour (Plate 25, Inside the Tower)

Henri Rivière, Planche 25, Dans la tour (Plate 25, Inside the Tower), from Les trente-six vues de la Tour Eiffel (Thirty-six Views of the Eiffel Tower), 1888-1902. Lithograph, 6 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. (16.8 x 21 cm.) Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Visitors who have become enamored of Henri Rivière’s lithographs of the Eiffel Tower, which he published in Thirty Six Views of the Eiffel Tower, a take-off on Hokusai’s Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji, might want to head over to the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler Gallery, where there is a special exhibition of Hokusai: 36 Views of Mount Fuji through June 17 as part of the Cherry Blossom-inspired Japan Spring celebration with the National Gallery of Art. Hokusai’s series established a standard of innovation in Japanese printmaking for years to come and was heralded for its startling compositions and technical mastery. Several rare, early prints with unusual coloration are included in the exhibition.

Under the Wave off Kanagawa (from a Series of Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji). Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

Detail. Under the Wave off Kanagawa (from a Series of Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji). Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) Ca. 1830-1832. Japan. Edo period. Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper, 10 1/8 x 14 15/16 in. (25.7 x 37.9 cm). Published by Eiudo. H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (JP1847). Location: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, U.S.A. Photo Credit: Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY

Hokusai: Japanese Screens and Hokusai: Paintings and Drawings are complementary installations also on view at the Freer Gallery of Art.