Still Life with Fugu


Still Life with Fugu
Print   (Part of the set: Mystique of the Japanese Print)

Seseragi Studio


Print is Public Domain; Photography is:   Creative Commons License


Our next print in the series is a reproduction of a surimono created by Gakutei Harunobu in the early 19th century. Gakutei is nearly completely unknown to modern audiences, even though he created many hundreds of beautiful print designs. Because he worked almost exclusively in the surimono genre though - privately commissioned prints, not commercially distributed - he never became as well-known as those of his contemporaries who worked on such things as actor prints. Hopefully he had enough job satisfaction to make up for it!

The original of this design was slightly larger, and had two poems; I have slightly simplified it here. Surimono were originally intended as vehicles to show off the literary erudition and aesthetic sensibilities of the members of the poetry circles who commissioned them. For us in modern times though, much of the poetic interplay is lost, and such prints become ‘simply’ decorative items. I think for most of us, that’s more than enough, as they are indeed very beautiful objects.

One of the most noticeable features of this print is the modelling applied to the body of the two fish, done with the technique known as kimedashi. This is a type of embossing, but unlike the typical embossing such as we see on the border area of this print - the karazuri - which is produced by pressing the paper onto a carved pattern, kimedashi is produced by pushing the back of the paper down into recessions carved into the block. The front side of the sheet is thus raised up slightly, and the print is actually turned into a (very shallow) bas relief object. There are limits as to how far this can be carried without tearing the paper, but on a print like this, even a shallow kimedashi can be very effective.

All these refinements take extra time (and money) to produce of course, but to the men who initiated the production of these prints back in the old days, that was of no consequence - their intent was to bewitch and bedazzle.

As is mine!


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