Hanga Treasure Chest: Print #14

So how well are you doing at the little game of predicting what is coming up next in this Treasure Chest series? Are you confused by what may seem to be a 'random' group of prints, or are you enjoying the 'eclectic' selection?

For the first (but not last) time in this set, we have a design by a non-Japanese artist. Dating from about 1910, this is the work of Jules Chadel, a member of 'Les Amis de l'Art Japonais', a group of French artists active around the turn of the previous century, a time when Japanese art was having an enormous influence on European design.

That influence is well-known and documented, but for the most part, the effects were on the content of the art produced. There were though, a few artists influenced also by the Japanese techniques, and Chadel was one of these. The colours on this print of his were water-based pigments applied to the wood with a brush, in contrast to the oil-based inks used for most western wood-block work. I have no idea how he learned the methods of doing this; perhaps he had some contact with the group of English printmakers who were learning from the Japanese expatriate Yoshijiro Urushibara at about this time, or perhaps he was a private experimenter, studying and learning from the Japanese prints that were flooding Europe just then.

It is a fact of quite some sadness for me that these experiments by European artists did not result in the water-based printmaking technology becoming firmly established in the west. The English did more with it than others, but they too gave it up in favour of the oil-based methods.

I myself believe that one of the main reasons for this is that until one has accumulated a lot of experience, it can be difficult to produce consistent results - large batches of identical prints - with the Japanese technique, something fairly straightforward when using oil-based inks and a press.

Looking at the bright side though, I guess this is one of the main reasons why I don't have much 'competition'!


Monday, August 1, 2005