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Ando Hiroshige put down the bamboo pen,
having finished his latest drawing,
a close-up of a plum tree with double blossoms.
It was a unique tree, some of its limbs plunging directly into the ground,
taking root and rearing nearby into more trunks.
All the traditional Japanese elements were there:
· the flattened perspective of the composition.
· the reduction of the color palette to 4 hues.
Lately, he had been studying the paintings of the Dutch masters.
In particular, he was interested in the realistic way
they rendered the three dimensions.
And so in this drawing,
he introduced slight modeling to the tree's trunk,
as he had introduced cast shadows in another print,
unknown till then in his own work,
as he had introduced the converging lines of depth in yet another work.
By going backward, he was moving forward.
Vincent Van Gogh lay down his bristle brush,
having finished his latest oil on canvas.
It was a close-up of a plum tree in blossom.
It was, in fact, a reproduction of Hiroshige's work,
as envisioned in a different medium.
The traditional western elements were reinterpreted:
· gone were the mathematically exact lines of perspective.
· gone were the muted colors found in nature.
Lately, he had been studying the coloured woodcuts of the Japanese masters.
In particular, he was interested in the stylized way
they rendered landscapes.
And so in this painting,
he eliminated the accepted effects of modeling.
In their place, he introduced fully saturated colors,
greens against a red sky bolstering the illusion of depth,
just as he had devised a charged palette
for his bridge/in/the/rain painting,
yet another echo from Hiroshige's work.
By going backward, he too was moving forward.
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