小雀 (Young Sparrows)

Designer: Shibata Zeshin | Carver: David Bull | Printer: Yoko Ishikawa

Paper size: 20.5cm by 15.5cm | Enlargement | Shipping Code: [M] ? | Currency: $ / £ /

Price: $ 65.00£ 52.50€ 59.75

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Description: Although the woodblock prints of the Edo and Meiji eras all had their origins in brush drawings, the prints can be divided into two categories. Most common were those in which the original drawing was done with the intention of serving as a hanshita (block-cutter's copy) for the print-making process. The designer knew as he was creating the image that their strokes would be 'translated' into carved lines, and he presumably kept this in mind as he worked. The great bulk of ukiyo-e prints were made this way.

The second category of prints were reproductions of pre-existing paintings. The designers of these had not been thinking of a print when they worked, and so were not concerned with how well their strokes would translate into printed form. When such designs were later used to make prints, the carvers were faced with much greater challenges.

The print you are looking at is one such 'arrangement'. The original brush painting was done by Shibata Zeshin, and the design was later published in this print form in the collection known as Shibata Zeshin Gafu, probably sometime in the 1880's. Whether or not the print version is 'better' than the original painting is I think a meaningless question. Although during the carving and printing I worked to try and capture the immediacy and haphazard nature of the brush strokes, it is not a slavish imitation. I think it stands on its own very well ... and besides, of a painting, there can be only one copy, but once it becomes a print, many people can enjoy the design ...

Zeshin is famous for arranging his designs on the paper in novel ways; he may bunch the design all into one corner and leave the rest of the paper blank, he may omit important design elements completely, or he may distort or 'lop off' parts of the image, as he has done here, leaving us somewhat confused at first as to just what it is we are looking at. But after a moment or two, our eyes manage to sort it out, and we recognize the pattern of traditional roof tiles, with a bamboo rain gutter hanging underneath, and a sparrows' nest tucked in between the two ...

[Note: we have an 'alternate' version of this print in the catalogue - the same item but treated to give it a somewhat aged appearance.]

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