Life is a Dream – Calligraphy Meets Ukiyo-e


Watercolor 18” x 24″ No Frame

This is a watercolor reproduction of a Japanese ukiyo-e print combined with a Song dynasty poem. Both have the moon as a central image and both emphasize the “life is a dream” qualities that are emblematic of the ukiyo-e school. I think that the poem, the calligraphy, the hand-carved signature stamps, and the watercolor combine to make an artistic statement.


My thoughts are puzzled on this historical battlefield
Laughing myself sentimental, gray hair has appeared.
Life is a dream
Let me bring a glass of wine to the river, to toast the bright moon on the river​

This poem is from Su Shi’s “Chibi Huaigu”. Su Shi was a Chinese poet, writer, politician, calligrapher, painter, pharmacologist and gourmet in the Song Dynasty of China. His poetry has a long history of popularity and influence in China, Japan and other surrounding areas, and enjoys a high reputation in the English-speaking regions of the world.

The original painting was created by Kawase Rensui. He is a Japanese artist and one of the most important and prolific printmakers in modern Japan. The name of the painting is Moonlight of Futoshi Island-Matsushima.

Ukiyo-e is an Japanese art movement that existed from the 17th to late 19th centuries. Its most characteristic pieces are wood block prints that are collaborations of the original artists with wood block carvers, printers and the businessmen who commissioned, marketed and sold the prints. Asai Ryoi described the milieu of the “floating world” (ukiyo) in his work Ukiyo Monogatari (“Tales of the Floating World“, c. 1661):[15]

“living only for the moment, savouring the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms, and the maple leaves, singing songs, drinking sake, and diverting oneself just in floating, unconcerned by the prospect of imminent poverty, buoyant and carefree, like a gourd carried along with the river current: this is what we call ukiyo.”

I combined the two of them together, this is my version from the summer of 2021.

Life is a dream - Calligraphy meets Ukiyo-e
Life is a dream – Calligraphy meets Ukiyo-e
Life is a dream - Calligraphy meets Ukiyo-e
Life is a dream – Calligraphy meets Ukiyo-e



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