Sheet: 34.3 x 50.6 cm (13 1/2 x 19 15/16 in.); Image: 22.6 x 34.3 cm (8 7/8 x 13 1/2 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1992.109
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Catalogue raisonné: Fields p. 82
In the second half of the 19th century, advances in photomechanical processes in France destroyed the commercial viability of using woodcut for illustration and as a reproductive medium. By the 1880s, however, this change encouraged the revival of the woodcut as an autonomous medium of expression. In 1888, the first album of L'Estampe originale (The Original Print) included six woodcuts. For the first time, woodcuts appeared as single-sheet original prints alongside the more artistically respectable media of etching and lithography.
In 1858, a trade agreement was signed between France and Japan, and so from the early 1860s, Japanese color woodcuts (ukiyo-e prints) were increasingly available on the commercial market and were exhibited widely. Japanese woodcuts had a tremendous impact on French artists, who emulated their flattened pictorial space, dramatic points of view, strong light-dark contrasts, delicate colors, and surface patterns. The stylized waves in Rivière's Wave in the Rain were inspired by Japanese woodcuts like Ando Hiroshige's View of the Straits of Naruto (on view nearby), but Rivière also closely followed the medium of these prints, indicating in the process an unusual degree of sensitivity to his Japanese models.
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