River of Clouds


River of Clouds
Print   (Part of the set: Akashi-ban Surimono)

Totoya Hokkei


Print is Public Domain; Photography is:   Creative Commons License


Dave used this design in one of his published prints some years ago, and at the time included some of these comments:

This view of Fuji-san in early spring is a surimono originally designed in the early 1830s by Totoya Hokkei.

Japanese viewers will probably be able to guess - when they see the kanji characters that make up his name - that Hokkei was one of the pupils of Katsushika Hokusai. Because he designed mostly surimono and illustrated books, rather than more famous actor and courtesan prints, his name is almost completely unknown to most people today. A reference book that I have here though, describes him as 'an artist contributing to more than a hundred publications and designing almost a thousand surimono.' A thousand surimono!

The poem, which is by a gentleman using the pen-name Ryueko Itonaga, plays on the auspicious feelings felt when seeing the snow covered mountain top rising above the clouds.

As you have perhaps already noticed, there are some special 'colours' used in this print; in two places powdered metals have been used instead of 'normal' pigments. Most of the surimono made back in the Edo era were commissioned privately, for non-commercial distribution. The people who commissioned the prints were not in the slightest bit interested in 'balancing the books' and were willing to spend quite a bit of money in order to have the prints look as beautiful as possible. It was thus quite common for prints to be made with special (and more expensive) materials like the ones you see here. The 'river of clouds' that curls around the base of Fuji-san is printed with powdered bronze, and the silvery 'snow' on the mountain top is printed with 'suzu no fun' (a powdered metal which we believe may be nickel silver).

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