Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Nature of Utamaro

Meadow Bunting + Domestic Fowl

Meadow Bunting and Domestic Fowl

Bull-headed Shrike + Hawk
Bull-headed Shrike and Hawk

Woodpecker + Japanese Grosbeak (Mammemawashi)
Woodpecker and Japanese Grosbeak (Mammemawashi)

As rumours spread
saying that my romance
has rotted away,
I'll be a woodpecker pecking
to pieces their tittle-tattle.
•Shinono Tamawaku•

Gathering shells at ebb tide along Shinagawa Bay
Gathering shells at ebb tide along Shinagawa Bay

Hoping to pick up a shell
like the one used as a sake cup
at the 'Welling Tide' Inn,
we stroll along the strand
stretching out at ebb tide.
•Yomibito Shirazu•

Shells + seaweed

Grasshopper + Cicada
Grasshopper and Cicada

The feelings of a cold-hearted lover
are like a cicada:
it cries constantly
but never shows its face
•Miwa no Sugikado•
Oh, grasshopper,
if you must cry so loud
as you make love
deep within the wall,
remember, it too has ears!
•Kurabe no Yukisumi•

Red Dragonfly  + Locust
Red Dragonfly and Locust

Change in lighting effect on print (red dragonfly + locust)

Brass dust and mica are sometimes glued to the surface of the paper so that the image shines and sparkles when the lighting or observation angle changes. Blind embossing adds a further dimension of texture and depth that alters when the book is moved. (see below) [and see David Bull's efforts in this regard]

Spider + Evening Cicada
Spider and Evening Cicada

Change in lighting effect on print (spider + evening cicada)

The Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge has a flash presentation of three elegant multi-colour woodblock Ukiyo-e books by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806) known as 'The Bird Book', 'The Shell Book' and 'The Insect Book'. Just exquisite. The site was developed to compliment an exhibition --- Kachōfūgetsu - the natural world in Japanese prints --- running in the Shiba Gallery until May 17.

The images above are screen captures and the backgrounds have been slightly cleaned.
"Kitagawa Nebsuyoshi [Utamaro] was a prolific Japanese artist who painted all traditional subjects, portraits, landscapes, and court paintings. His paintings were superior in the detail and design of the figures and their appropriate representation of the elegance and prestige of his clients. Utamaro’s color prints were also very famous, and upon introducing these works to the Dutch community in Nagasaki, they developed a reputation throughout Europe." [source]
Ukiyo-e --- Utamaro --- previously

via the ever observant Andrew at gmtPlus9 (-15).


genevieve said...

That is a magnificent exhibition, Peacay. And yours is pretty nice too. Thanks.

The Clever Pup said...

I worked at a museum gift shop in the 80's. A wonderful place to work with lots to see at lunch hour. Your blog reminds me of that. Yours is the only blog that I'm excited to see updated.

Unknown said...

I've been reading your blog for a couple of years now and just want to say,, "Thank you for the visual joy I get from your posts!"

G R Collia said...

Thank you for posting these beautiful images... I never get tired of looking at Utamaro's prints.

Karla said...

Those are just beyond gorgeous.

peacay said...

Thanks. As often as I "umm" and "aah" about whether or not to post particular material, there was never a question in my mind about these books.

lotusgreen said...

just wonderful. on the off-chance you don't know, the metropolitan museum of art in new york put out beautiful editions of the bird one and the insect one. someone gave me the insects one decades ago and i just recently finally found the birds one on ebay.

i think the shell book is on the new york public library site too. but i have never read the poems. you have put together a souffle of the highest sort with this, peakay. thanks.

Karla said...

Funny, I was going to say (but forgot... it's that brain decay I suffer from) that the juxtaposition of the poetry reminded me of Japonisme.

Elatia Harris said...

Never better. Thanks!

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