Hanga Treasure Chest: Print #7

Our Hanga Treasure Chest is now just over 1/4 full; I wonder if the selection of prints is anything like what you had expected to see! We haven't had any 'big name' designers yet, so perhaps it's time to include a print from somebody you will recognize.

Actually though, I'm not really sure if this print is by somebody you would recognize. Down through the years publishers of woodblock prints have frequently played fast and loose with design attributions, particularly in the early years of the 20th century, when print buyers from overseas were far less knowledgeable than they have since become. A publisher would know that a traditional landscape design may (or may not) sell well, but if he told his craftsmen to carve and print the name 'Hiroshige' onto it, then it would almost certainly sell more copies than without ... And as Hiroshige had been dead for many years, he wouldn't mind, would he ...

Katsushika Hokusai's name was another that frequently came in for such cavalier treatment; it is an endless headache for scholars to try and sort out which prints and paintings actually came from his brush, and which are imitations.

Some years ago, I found a few fish prints in a dealer's shop, and although they were said to be by Hokusai, well ... we'll never really know for sure.

One day next week we'll be celebrating 'Boy's Day', and as the Japanese carp is a traditional symbol of that festival, I thought I would use one of those fish designs I found. But it's not just the old-time publishers who could 'adapt' designs they came across - as there are of course no longer any copyrights applying to such old work, I too am free to borrow and re-arrange things as I see fit. So I 'transplanted' the carp from the bed of water plants that he was nestled in, floated him in space to give a bit of the feel of the 'koi-nobori' streamers we see around Boy's Day, and then added a background of sumi-nagashi pattern, just for fun.

But I think I'll leave Hokusai's name off, as I doubt there is much of his work still visible, if any!


Monday, April 25, 2005