Monday, March 1, 2010

fish prints, notable nishiki-e

Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Black Carp
c. 1842
Color woodblock print
Chû-tanzaku-ban: 15 1/8 x 5 3/16 in. (38.4 x 13.2 cm)
Japanese, 19th century, Edo period
Published by Tsujiokaya Bunsuke
Inscriptions: Ichiyu_sai Kuniyoshi ga Ichiyu_sai
Seal Publisher: Tsujiokaya
Physical Description: nishiki-e, tanzaku-e
Collection: Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA); Gift of Louis W. Hill, Jr.
Image is from the MIA.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is currently showing prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) a nineteenth century Japanese artist. The exhibition is not very large, but the prints are of exceptional quality and indicate the wide range in Kuniyoshi’s body of work. Prints portraying various kinds of fish are fairly frequent in Kuniyoshi’s oeuvre(1). Carp can tenaciously swim upstream and are not fearful of dark depths. Thus, for the Japanese, carp are symbols of valor. The show ends this Sunday, March 7, 2010.

The following is from MIA documentation:
“This image of a black carp is from a series that pictures aquatic creatures. The carp, seen from above, seems to be languorously swimming toward the surface. Not only did Kuniyoshi render the fish with great care, he also managed to convey the impression that it is beneath the surface of water. Kuniyoshi’s careful attention to detail, one of the defining characteristics of his style, is amply evident in this print.”

Woodblock color print. Brocade picture. Polychrome print. A further development of the benizuri-e [i.e., a polychrome print using different blocks for different colors for a multi-impression print]. The impetus for its evolution came from the practice, which arose in the year Meiwa 2 (1765), of exchanging calendars, a practice indulged in by both high and low born individuals, by artists and art-lovers alike. It provided an opportunity for inventing and trying out new techniques.…(2)
(1) Fahr-Becker, Gabriele, ed. Japanese Prints. Köln: Benedikt Taschen Verlag GmbH Hohenzollernring 53, 1999. 164-65. Print.
(2) Ibid, 192.

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