Saturday, December 8, 2018

Japanese Prints (Part III) [1]
Works on Paper

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

For you convenience I have listed the other posts in this series below.
Japanese Prints (Part I)
Japanese Prints (Part II)

Introduction [1]
Seventeenth-century Japan saw the rise in popularity of the woodblock printed book, which was largely due to increased literacy amongst the townspeople. It was in the book and album format that Ukiyo-e printed designs first appeared, and from these that individual sheet prints developed in the late 1680s. Throughout the Edo period (1615 - 1858), the most important Ukiyo-e artists, such as Utamaro and Hokusai, continued to produce designs for both book and single print formats.

The majority of Ukiyo-e prints were designed to be pasted on the walls of Japanese houses as a comparatively cheap but high quality alternative to paintings. Indeed, some of the earliest examples were made in imitation of comparatively tall and thin format similar in size to the hanging scroll. Although prints occurred in a variety of different yet standard sizes, by the mid 1770s the oban format, which measures approximately 38 x 25 cm had become the most common From an early date artists also produced designs which spread over two, three or more sheets such as diptychs, triptychs and so on. While each sheet stood as a unified composition in its own right, the group was designed to be viewed in its entirety as a continuous scene.

The size of some of the other prints was dictated by their function, such as the tall and extremely narrow pillar print, which was intended to be displayed on the column of a house. Fan prints were also produced, both for the folding fan (obi) and more commonly, for the rigid fan (uchiwa), as cheap and fashionable substitutes for the printed fan leaf. Both the folding and rigid fans consisted of two fan leaves for the front and back respectively, with some form of support inserted in between the two. In the case of the uchowa, this was generally a piece of bamboo which formed the handle at one end and which was split and splayed at the other to form numerous thin splints. Artists such as Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, Kunisada and Sadahide all specialised in fan prints for the uchiwa fan.

Japanese Prints (Part III) [1]

"Peonies and Irises" by Kubo Shummman (1757 - 1820). Surimono, inscribed poems. According yto the inscription, this set of surimono was commissioned by the Mist Club, a poetry club, a fact which would also account for the inclusion of poetry on the print. This example made use of metallic powders and blind printing for peonies. Shumman specialised in surimono [1].

The actor Bandō Mitsugorō III in the seven chief roles of the Chūshinura (Tale of the 47 Ronin) drama, 1822, by Utagawa Toyokuni (1769 - 1825). Despite the portrayal of the difference roles played by the actor on this print, it is possible to make out the identical facial features of the one man [1].

"Waves and Plovers" (ca. 1820) by Katsushika Hokusai (1760 - 1849). From a series of bird, fish and flowers. This is an example of an azure-e, or a print that is executed predominantly in tones of blue. Plovers, who often inhabit seaside areas, fly in groups following a circular or wave-like pattern. In poetry, moreover, they were frequently referred to as drops given off by the wanes. It became customary to depict waves and plovers together [1].

"The falls of Roben at Oyama in Soshu Province" (ca. 1827) by Katsushika Hokusai (1760 - 1849). From the series - "Going the round of the waterfalls of the country." [1]

"The stone bridge at Shinzan over the Aji River, Osaka, 1838" by Yashima Gakutei (1786? - 1868). From the series - "Views of Mount Tempō, Osaka". Gakutei was a pupil of Hokusai, and the influence of his master is clearly seen in this print, which also successfully combines the use of vibrant blue, yellow and green [1].

Scene from a play with an unidentified actor playing a hooded women who shines her lantern at another actor, who shields his face with his hat (ca. 1830) by Shunkōsai Hokuei (active from ca. 1829 - 37). Diptych. This print successfully portrays the darkness of night, contrasted with the light from the latter, Hokuei played a prominent part in a group of artists who worked in Osaka and who specialised in theatrical prints [1].

The various processes involved in print making by Utagawa Toyokuni (1769 - 1825). Triptych. Toyokuni has added interest to the design by displaying women in full dress instead of the male craftsman one would expect. The right-hand print depicts a women with the original drawing pasted onto the wooden block; the middle print shows the block being cut while another woman is sizing paper; the left-hand print portrays pots of color, brushes, the baron or pad and a prepared block for taking impression [1].

"Autumn Moon at Ishiyama by Andō Hiroshige (1797 - 1858). From the series - "Eight Views of Lake Biwa (1830 - 35)". The popular "Eight Views" theme was derived from Chinese representation of the "Eight Views of Xiao and Xiang Rivers" in Hunan province. Hiroshige's version of the "Eight Views of Lake Biwa" includes some superb examples of atmospheric conditions, such as rain, and the portrayal of night with appropriate colors [1].

[1] J. Hutt, Japanese Prints, Studio Editions Ltd, London (1996).