Octopus and Diver (蛸と海女)

Designer: Katsushika Hokusai | Carver: David Bull | Printer: Kenichi Kubota

Paper size: 24cm by 34cm | Enlargement | Shipping Code: [L] ? ( Change currency: $ / £ / )

Price: $ 135.00£ 110.00€ 125.00

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Description: Notes by Dave: This is the Mokuhankan reproduction of Hokusai's most iconic shunga image. The original dates from 1814, and was not a single sheet print like the one you see here: it was a spread in a small book, crossing the gutter in the centre where the book was bound. For this version, I 'pasted' the two halves together to create a clean single print.

I do not own a copy of the original book, but when I was planning this project, I called up my friend the book/print dealer Shingo Ueda, to see if he might know where I could find one. I was in luck, as he not only owned a very nice copy, but was willing to let me borrow it to use as a guide for making my reproduction.

That process began with taking a very high-resolution scan of the two pages, and then stitching them together. This was not as easy as it sounds, because in traditional Japanese books of this type, the left and right sides of each spread are actually on separate woodblocks, printed at different times. In the case of the book from Ueda-san, the registration on one of the pages was quite a bit off, so I had to make considerable adjustments to get things to line up properly.

In a very interesting related point, please inspect the calligraphy carving just to the left and right of the centre line of the image. As I was carving this design, it became clear to me the the two halves of the original print were carved by two different people, and this is most visible in the text - as anybody can see once they know what to look for …

We are producing the print in two versions - the one on this page (with the original text included), and one with the text removed, leaving just the image itself.

About the image itself: I find it quite unfortunate that when this image was initially 'discovered' by westerners, and widely distributed around the world, it became known under such titles as 'The Rape of the Fisherman's Wife'. This is misleading for a couple of reasons: the first being that this lady is a shell diver - a fisherwoman herself - she is not present here as somebody's wife. But it is another point of misunderstanding by those first westerners, who could not read the text, that is more unfortunate. Their use of the word 'rape' puts an entirely misleading impression of the image into the viewer's mind. I myself am not competent at reading the archaic writing on the print, but a quick internet search will reveal any number of translations of the text, and it is clear that not only is there no rape involved here, the lady is in truth very much enjoying herself during this encounter …

When I grew up in the fifties and early sixties, the very idea that I could be in any way whatsoever involved with an image like this - to the extent of spending months working on it, and then publishing it for a wide audience - would have been absolutely inconceivable, not only to myself, but of course to people like my parents. The world has changed an incredible amount in the intervening years, and I myself am still a bit stunned to find myself living in a society where such vivid expressions of sexual pleasure - whether realistic, or fantastical, as in this example - are not only 'permitted', but are treated as completely natural …

Anyway, at the end of the day, I had great fun making this print, and am very happy to have been able to use my skills to bring Hokusai's work to a wider audience, for people to enjoy at their own pleasure.

Tokyo, Spring 2020

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Shipping note: Some people have expressed concern to us about the packaging for this print. On the shipping package the contents will be described as 'Japanese print', and there should be no reason for any difficulty. But if you live in a country where a customs inspection of the package could cause legal difficulties for you, then it might be better not to purchase this item.

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