061102. 2/46, Thirty-six Views of Bath Abbey. My tribute to Hokusai’s Fugaku Sanju Rokkei

November 2, 2006 at 1:48 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bath Abbey, Cathedrals and churches, cumulus clouds, Fugaku Sanju Rokkei, Gardens & Parks, Hokusai, river, River Avon, somerset, Tabernacles, Towers, towns, Trees | 6 Comments

OK—onto the realm of abstract theory and the irrelevant: Art History, here I come!

Perhaps some of you have noticed that there have only been a few posts about the true centres of this city: the Roman Baths and the grand Tudor 15-16th Century Abbey. These two city attractions define, create the eyebrow (or skyline), and yes, NAME it.

In terms of the Abbey, photographing this city heart could inadvertently dismiss its importance and insufficiently challenge its vast and monolithic Late Medieval impression it leaves on an otherwise suffocating Georgian city. I won’t say much about the history yet, except that the abbey was begun in 1499 after demolishing the older and much larger Norman cathedral on site.

Construction began in 1499, just a few decades before Henry VIII’s break with Catholicism and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which means among other things that it was the last large scale Medieval work attempted in England. It also bears the distinction of being one of the finest Tudor structures in the world, even though most of its interior fabric is the result of Victorian restorations. (But what in England isn’t?)

The interiors are breathtaking and I have deliberately failed to post any grand views so as to save them for a DP sweeps week. Nevertheless, I wish to dwell on the exterior of the abbey, which is incredible in itself, and this leads me to the new theme challenge.

Approaching the same subject from different angles is not new, and was brought up in Roger Zelazny’s Hugo Award-winning 1985 novel 24 Views of Mount Fuji, by Hokusai. I ran into a review of this book, which is constructed around an abridged set of the famous Japanese prints by Hokusai Katsushika (1760-1849). Zelazny writes “it struck me that it would be good to take one thing in life and regard it from many viewpoints, as a focus for my being, and perhaps as a penance for alternatives missed.”

My goal in following this approach for the next few months is to intermittently focus on the exteriors of Bath Abbey with the same theme as each print of Hokusai’s series of “Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji” (Fugaku Sanju Rokkei). Everyone is familiar with at least one of these iconic images, even though it confusingly features 46 prints (blame the “new math”)!

Along with posting my image of Bath Abbey’s exterior, I will try and provide an Internet jpeg of the Hokusai print that led me to the captured viewpoint. All the prints are featured here.

Finally, this is the second of the series of 46 (possibly 36 or less if I give up). The first one was posted a while ago and recently refitted with the Hokusai print. Take a look here to get a better idea.

I should make clear that I do not intend to foolishly compare my photos with Hokusai’s prints but instead I am using his prints as a guide to help me find different views of the Abbey exterior that I might have otherwise missed.


About the shot: it was taken from Alexandria Park, direclty south of the city over the Avon in Lyncombe (?). Enjoy.

061029.103.Somset.Bath.Lyncombe

Tokaido Hodogaya

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6 Comments »

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  1. James, it is a really interesting idea to compare the pictures your own pictures with the Hokusai prints!! I cann’t wait to your new daily photo.

  2. thanks for your honourable efforts in trying to identify my last pic! this is such a great idea, i shall be watching with the beady eye of Pod!

  3. do complete all the 46 , we are reading!!
    both modern and old art/photo showed a wonderful side of Bath abbey!

  4. Great shot!

    You successfully make ordinary scenery special by Hokusai’s angle!

    I think that he would be a great photographer, if he were alive.

    By the way, is Hokusai familiar there?

  5. by the way, here is another Hokusai’s picture:-)

    http://artofjpn3.blogspot.com/2006/09/big-wave.html

  6. Great idea and subject. Reminds me of the Wallace Stevens poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”


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