Price: $ 40.00£ 31.00€ 36.75
Description: [Note: the image here will be familiar to many of our fans, because this is the second time it is appearing in our catalogue. Dave published a full-size version of this design many years ago - he has now re-carved it in a smaller size for our HangaClub series of postcard-size woodblock prints.]
This image was created to be a kuchi-e (frontispiece) included with the popular magazine Bungei Kurabu ('Literary Art Club'), in the October issue of Meiji 38 (1905). It was designed by Kajita Hanko, a name well known in the world of kuchi-e, but almost totally unrecognized outside of that sphere.
This was the era when the old ukiyo-e was dying; western imagery was flooding the country as Japanese modernized, and the heavily stylized methods of drawing ukiyo-e - with the hook noses and tiny eyes - were passé. The kuchi-e genre shows this transition happening in real time, from the flat drawing of the ukiyo-e to a type of design heavily influenced by the arrival of the camera. Viewers had come to expect images to look more like the 'real thing’, and we can see it happening here - this lady is a real person.
There was also a major change taking place in woodblock print production techniques at the same time. For the old ukiyo-e, the designer was only required to produce a line drawing of the design. Only after this was carved did work begin on the process of deciding how the image would be coloured, and the production team (publisher/carvers/printers) had great leeway in deciding the actual shades to be used in the print. But for these new images, the designer took it all the way, producing a completed picture (in watercolours). Taking that as a 'master' copy, the production team then created a set of blocks with which they could reproduce the image as closely as possible. All the creativity thus shifted to the designer, and the work of the craftsmen became much more strictly dictated. We have no records or surviving documents to tell us what those men thought of this change, but as at that time their world was already crumbling - their work was disappearing due to the arrival of printing presses - we can perhaps imagine that they were just glad to have the work, of whatever kind!
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