Hanga Treasure Chest: Print #12

Our series reaches the half-way point with this beautiful and delicate image by Ogata Gekko. It is a small portion 'clipped' from a full size print - one of the designs in the series Fujin Fuzoku Zukushi (Customs and Manners of Women), this one dating from Meiji 25 (1892).

A few weeks back I had been searching through my books and prints looking for a Tanabata-related design to use for this spot in the Treasure Chest, but had turned up nothing that seemed suitable. I had almost given up and become resigned to using a non-seasonal image when I came across this Gekko print, which I had completely forgotten I owned. (Do I have too many prints, do you think?) There is nothing overtly Tanabata (Star Festival) about it, but this is close enough for me - a beautiful young lady weaving at her loom ...

And look at that butterfly in the window - an absolute masterstroke, transforming what is, on the face of it, a basically prosaic image, into something far more appealing and interesting!

Ogata Gekko is just one of a large number of men who worked in a similar style in the late Meiji period; their names are almost completely unknown to the world at large, as they have been mostly overshadowed by the Edo-era giants. But more and more I find myself being drawn toward their images. Making the 'Autumn' print in the 'Beauties of Four Seasons' series last year was a breakthrough for me; until then I had looked at such detailed Meiji prints in awe, never daring to try cutting and printing one. Successfully completing that print though, has left me in a position to approach these images with increased confidence in my ability to do a creditable job at reproducing them.

It's certainly too soon to start to talk to you about my plans for upcoming projects, but it won't be giving away any great secret if I tell you that I am looking long and hard at some wonderful Meiji designs ...

With or without butterflies, there is a vast treasure trove just waiting to be tapped!


Monday, July 4, 2005