Chapter 7. Aspirations

Hakone, the View of Ashinoko Lake, from Fifty-Three Stages on the Tokaido, by Utagawa Hiroshige, ca. 1833-1834

Hakone, the View of Ashinoko Lake

The daimyo’s retinue helps make the severities of his pilgrimage on the Tokaido road less unbearable. They carry the lord across the precipitous Hakone Pass. If he weren’t drowsy and were to open his heavy eyes, he might be frightened of the abyss below, of slipping into Ashinoko Lake. It is raining; the boulders of Mount Hakone are ready to fall. The water below is cerulean blue. In the distance a white peak, Mount Fuji, is cut from the yellow sky.

A Fair Wind, by Winslow Homer, 1873-1876

A Fair Wind

A day’s catch lies in the bottom of the catboat while a fair wind blows across the harbor. Three boys and a man relax against the side of the boat pitched up by the wind. One boy has a hand on the tiller while the man holds a line that trims the sail. The sunlight is magic. On the horizon, a two-master slips into harbor.

The Dancer, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1874

The Dancer

Henriette Henriot poses in ballet’s fifth position, and fidgets with the tulle of her tutu. While she looks simply at us, Renoir’s brushwork captures the fine details of her face, her grace, her youth, her innocence, her beauty, and makes her dress seem to float.

Luncheon of the Boating Party, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1881

Luncheon of the Boating Party

People whom he loved in a place he loved reflect light around a table covered with glasses, fruit, wine, and bread, we follow the eyes of these beautiful people, flirting with an actress, playing with a dog, enjoying the wine, chatting happily on this sunny and pleasant summer afternoon.