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THE TRAINING OF UKIYO-E ARTISTS, CARVERS, AND PRINTERS AND THE TECHNIQUE OF MAKING PRINTS (from Kiyonaga, A Study of his Life and works) Chie Hirano
- The designers
- Training of the Artists and Craftsmen
- Printmaking process
- Print dimensions and paper
In order to appreciate the life and work of Kiyonaga, it is desirable to be better acquainted with the Ukiyo-e School to which he belonged. In the first place, the term ukiyo needs definition. It meant in the original sense "the sad or lamentable world." It was altered, however, in the sixteenth century to signify "this world" or "life" because at that time people were obliged to live in a sadly chaotic condition owing to civil wars all over the country. The world and life in general seemed to them always lamentable, - hence ukiyo. When the long-wished-for peace was restored by Hideyoshi at the end of the sixteenth century, the Japanese people plunged into the enjoyment of life and indulged themselves in worldly pleasures. The sense of ukiyo was, accordingly, changed to "enjoyable world" or even "gay life" at the end of the same century. Meanwhile, it meant "modern" or "fashionable."
Thus, the word ukiyo combined with 'e', or picture, is understood as a picture that depicts gay life in this world. It chiefly deals with the life of the Edo populace, especially that of the gay quarters and of the stage, since the theatre had become, as we have seen, one of the most popular amusement places in Edo. Singularly, the first use of the term ukiyo-e, so far as has been observed, was not until 1682, when it appeared in the preface of Moronobu's Tsukinami no Asobi and Ukiyo Tsuzuki Ezukushi. The word Ukiyo-e-shi was not, in its early use, employed by the designer himself but by the public, as when Ukiyo-e-shi Hishikawa Moronobu was so called in Edo Zukan Komoku, published in 1689. Meanwhile, Moronobu called himself Yamato-e-shi instead, meaning that he was following the old tradition of Yamato-e.
Ukiyo-e germinated in the midst of the civil wars in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. At that time the noblemen in Kyoto, though impoverished like the samurai, tried to enrich their daily lives and enjoy pleasures of the moment which were enhanced by the uncertainty of what the morrow would bring forth. In order to entertain soldiers who came from various parts of the country to Kyoto, there appeared many courtesans. Evidences of their popularity are found in contemporary novels, farces, and songs. Artists of the Tosa and Kano schools, departing from the traditional classical subjects, which had lost their vitality and had become quite remote from everyday life, painted these women on their jolly picnics or profligate drinking parties with men and even priests. Turning in another direction, the artists found ample colorful material in the vivacious epicurean life of the bourgeois, composed of upstart samurai or merchants who had enriched themselves by foreign trade or had taken advantage of expanding economic conditions. These pictures are the forerunners of Ukiyo-e.
Although the aristocratic painters did not comprehend the psychology of the lower classes precisely, they depicted them as they interpreted them. War lords and the newly rich graciously welcomed these paintings, the subjects of which were delightfully familiar to them. After the establishment of permanent peace by Hideyoshi and Ieyasu, the popularity of these pictures increased to the extent that such subjects were painted even in one of the reception halls of Nagoya Castle which belonged to the Lord of Owari, the sixth son of Ieyasu.
The growth and propagation of Ukiyo-e was also helped by its association with printing, which advanced remarkably toward the end of the seventeenth century and brought this art to the masses. Hishikawa Moronobu (1618-1694?) was the first known artist who designed pure picture books and series of prints in black and white with his signature. Belonging to the plebeian class, he presented his art from a commoner's point of view. In other words, he was naturally able to interpret more sympathetically the life of lower-class people. Moreover, printing, which can reproduce inexpensively several hundred copies of one design, was a very advantageous medium for the easy distribution of Ukiyo-e among the common people, who were eager to have an art which they could understand. Thus, Ukiyo-e became the plebeian's own art chiefly in its printed form. The majority of Japanese in those days could not appreciate the classical schools such as Tosa, Sesshu, or Kano, whose exalted subjects were too remote to be understood, even if frequently seen, by the populace. On the other hand, the lovers of Ukiyo-e prints and illustrated popular books were not limited to ignorant people or children: ladies in the courts of the shogun and daimyo, as well as those in samurai and wealthy merchant families, were keenly interested in them. The people as admirers of their own arts greatly outnumbered, however, those in the samurai class. Ukiyo-e, in spite of its aristocratic origin, was, therefore, brought up by plebeian foster parents and patronized also by the populace, thus occupying a unique position in the world's history of the arts.
Before proceeding to the history of Ukiyo-e after the formation of its school, it is desirable to study the designer's attitude toward this popular pictorial art. His attitude would be formed, of course, by his patrons. His patrons, the Edo populace, were quite contented to stay in their metropolis, considering it, as Parisians do their capital, the most interesting, vivacious, and prosperous city in the country. This conception was due to their limited knowledge of places outside of Edo caused by the difficulties of travelling and the absence of ambition for a wider cultural outlook. The portrayal of their own life popularly interpreted was most appealing to them, and this encouraged Ukiyo-e artists to limit the scope of their subject matter. The artists, as well as the impoverished samurai, moreover, reached no higher level of culture and education than the public who demanded their works, and they felt quite at home reproducing the everyday life about them. They were conscious not of themselves but of their art, and felt a strong impulse to depict what they saw. Keenly observing, they delineated the people and their daily life in Edo with the highest pictorial consciousness, and, because their scope was limited, they were able to intensify their studies. The nature of their subject matter, too, prevented them from treating it on a high spiritual level and forced them to penetrate more deeply into every phase of the people's most primitive emotional life. Since their subject was contemporary life, sometimes even dealing with current events, such as a special festival at a temple or a newly presented beauty, they were compelled to design their many pictures quickly. This was particularly true of stage pictures, which had to be issued within ten or twelve days after the performance started. This necessity for speed sometimes led to bad practices. Designers with little talent, having often no time for studying their designs, found it quicker and easier to take a leaf out of another's book rather than create their own, and, far from feeling ashamed of copying or borrowing the ideas of others, they boldly stole them. The majority of artists did not try to create designs, but worked diligently to satisfy the aesthetic taste of the Edo populace, and their works were therefore sometimes criticized for lack of originality. This phenomenon is more apparent in Ukiyo-e prints than in the paintings and prints of other schools and countries, because Ukiyo-e prints could be more easily multiplied and were more popular than prints in other lands, and were therefore produced in such quantity that great numbers of them have survived all sorts of intentional and accidental destruction.
At times there appeared ambitious and original artists who grew tired of the old technique and traditions, revolted against them, and established their own ways. In the well-regulated Japanese feudal society, such behavior caused them - especially the Tosa and Kano artists - to be not only disinherited by their families but also ostracized by their schools. Unless an artist was convinced that he possessed unusual talent, he would not dare to take the dangerous step which incurred loss of social standing and of comfortable living. Artists of the Kyoto and Bunjin schools were more or less independent and free, because their family professions were not necessarily inherited nor were they supported by their lords, so that talented ones could follow their own bent. Whether they came from the samurai class or not, they were well-educated and did not object to living in poverty if necessary for the sake of their high ideals.
Most Ukiyo-e artists born in the families of merchants or laborers chose the profession of their own accord and studied as apprentices with a master. As soon as they were able to earn their own living, the master did not oblige them to observe faithfully his style and technique, as did those in other schools, though they felt a strong obligation to him for their training. Even if he had wished to, it would have been impossible because Ukiyo-e is the art which deals particularly with the life of women, who were constantly changing the style of their coiffures, the colors and designs of their dresses, and their manners and customs. The majority of Ukiyo-e artists, therefore, had to be alert to note the current fashion, altering and adapting the style of the beauties and their changing social conditions in their pictures to accord with the vogue of the moment, and thus maintain their popularity. Moreover, there was always a leader or two among them with sufficiently high standards of art to guide them in establishing a new technique in drawing, composition, or color scheme. Thus the Ukiyo-e School was kept fresh and active until the end of the feudal days, when, owing to the people's changed attitude toward the arts, it was doomed to die.
Some critics maintain that there is neither individuality nor leadership among the Ukiyo-e artists but only a group movement, and recognize only the difference of their technical skill. How can these critics assert that artists like Moronobu, Torii Kiyomasu, Miyagawa Choshun,' Suzuki Harunobu, Katsukawa Shunsho, Toni Kiyonaga, Kitagawa Utamaro, Katsushika Hokusai, and Utagawa Hiroshige were not leaders with a distinctively individual style of aesthetic expression? In their earlier days, of course, they imitated respectively the styles of their predecessors, but ultimately each one found an individual way of expressing his own conceptions. This natural evolution of individual style is not confined to Japan. In Western art even so rare a genius as Raphael was not free from the influence of his teachers at the beginning of his career. Moronobu established his own style, and Ishikawa Ryusen, Sugimura Masataka, and others imitated him. No matter how hard they tried, the followers of Harunobu - Harushige, Masunobu, and Yoshinobu - could not succeed in reproducing the unsophisticated and dreamy faces of his subjects. Harushige had individuality, too. The faces of his women were coarser but more intelligent, his landscapes more skillful and accurate than those of his master, although the difference between the work of master and pupil may be slight. Similar slight differences can be noted between other masters and their followers, but the degree of difference in the Ukiyo-e School is not less than that existing in the Tosa, Sesshu, Kano, and Kyoto schools. A comparison of a sufficient number of works by each of the minor artists of these schools, especially those of the late stagnant Kano School, with the work of their masters nullifies the hasty conclusion that only Ukiyo-e artists imitated and followed greater or more successful masters. It would be easy to cite parallel instances even among modern French painters, whom we are accustomed to consider as more individual, if not more original. The number of outstanding men among the French is greater than in the Ukiyo-e School, and the number of minor, amazingly clever, imitative artists is as disappointingly great.
For a clearer understanding of Ukiyo-e, it is necessary to know of the training of the painters and designers of that school and of the carvers and printers of nishiki-e and their process of producing prints. Ukiyo-e artists usually entered a master's studio either as day pupils or as apprentices in their early teens, as apprenticeship was a common practice in the training of artists and craftsmen of any trade in feudal society. During their apprenticeship they were obliged to obey whatever the master told them to do. His discipline was generally severe. To begin with, he would give them some simple drawing of his own as a model to follow in the practice of line drawing and brush strokes until they acquired facility, occasionally examining and correcting their work and showing them how to manage certain techniques. A pupil whose work met the master's approval was given more difficult examples to follow until he was sufficiently advanced to be allowed to copy in full colors one of his master's paintings by applying especially prepared thin paper over it. He was also allowed to watch his master at work whenever he could in order to learn the technical secrets by observation. After he had thus acquired a certain amount of technical skill in the course of possibly four or five years, he began to create designs on the basis of his own ideas. An apprentice was obliged to serve his master by keeping the studio in order, dissolving pigments, stretching silk on a frame and applying dosa to it, and by doing all sorts of errands inside and outside the household to pay for his lessons and his living. When a pupil could be technically trusted, he was sometimes allowed to fill in colors in unimportant parts of his master's painting and later on even to draw insignificant parts of a design under the master's supervision.
Carvers of blocks for printing and printers also served an apprenticeship in training. After the eighteen-forties, and presumably even before, one had to be apprenticed at the age of ten for a period of ten years in order to become a carver. Besides serving his master in general work in the shop, the apprentice began his lessons by carving simple characters without any marked guide on odd pieces of woodblocks; next, he carved blocks for song books written in large characters until he could produce a perfect result. When he was able to carve simple color blocks for nishiki-e, he was allowed to do patterns on the dresses worn by figures in the picture, but the outlines of the dresses, which showed the actual swing and swirl of the artist's brush strokes, were not entrusted to him. When he had mastered these techniques, he proceeded to clear with a gouge the parts of the block which were to show neither ink nor color in the printing. Meanwhile, he spent his evenings with compass and rule learning to space geometrical patterns correctly, because the artist usually did not draw these precisely but gave only a sketchy suggestion for the carver's apprentice to follow in working out the complete design.
The next step in his training was to carve the human figure, beginning with hands and feet. When he was able to carve finger tips, he could manage the nose, which had to be cut from its base straight down past the tip in one continuous line. No stop or hesitation was permitted, for on the block there was no way of correcting a mistake in such a delicate line as a nose or the outline of a face, as can be done in drawing. The ear and head, including the face line, came next. In cutting the block the carver had to reduce this line to one-third or one-fifth of its width in the original drawing, deciding in his own mind which side of the original line should be kept or leaving only the middle of it in the course of his cutting. He was forced to this decision by the designer, who did not draw such a fine and sharp line as seen in the prints but a much broader one. Master carvers could cut face lines expressing the peculiarity of each artist's line even without any drawing by the latter. The line of the hair was the most difficult. This also was roughly drawn by the designer, and the carver had to depend on his own skill for working out the fine individual lines. He had also to differentiate each particular aspect of hair in order to produce the proper effect, as, for example, wet hair or the hair of a dead person.
The first lessons of an apprentice to a printer consisted in moistening paper before printing, washing cloths and brushes, providing water, dissolving pigments, cooking the paste used for printing, and doing other work about the establishment until he was thoroughly accustomed to handling instruments and pigments. Then he began to print inexpensive nishiki-e from the easiest and simplest color blocks, such as gray, yellow, blue, or to try embossing. Other colors followed. Since it was not an easy task to print the key block with black ink evenly distributed, this training was given in the final stage of apprenticeship.
The making of the prints designed by the Ukiyo-e artists involved a complicated process. The artist first drew his design roughly with light ink on hanshi or minogami. In this stage he would change or correct his composition until he was satisfied, patching or pasting another piece of paper over the part where the change or correction occurred. Then it was carefully copied on a thin but strong paper such as usu-minogami or good tengujo as the final drawing for a key block. In order to paste this drawing on a block of wood, a carver's apprentice applied rice or wheat paste uniformly all over the block, and the master carefully laid the drawing, which had been slightly moistened, face down on the pasted surface and stretched it evenly to avoid wrinkles. Once the design, which was drawn on thin paper, was laid on the paste, it could be removed or readjusted only with great difficulty and only experienced hands could place the drawing exactly in the right position. The block with the drawing pasted on it was kept in a room without sunshine until thoroughly dry. For a block used in printing, wild cherry which grew on mountains near the sea was best on account of its fine grain. It was found that the block should not be polished with sandpaper or any other material, but was most evenly finished by hewing. A finer wood was used for the key block than for the color blocks, while the block for the general ground of the picture required a rather soft wood. All the blocks had to be well seasoned in order to prevent uneven shrinking in any part of a set and to insure perfect registration at every point.
In cutting a key block, the carver started on the inner side of the line with his tool and then cut the outside. For example, in cutting a nose turned toward the left, the right, or inner side of the nose line was cut first. In the course of cutting, the carver had to visualize the center of the line and make it finer than in the original drawing, where it was always broader than it was intended to appear in the finished block. Next, he cleared the middle of the vacant areas with a large gouge, and then with a smaller instrument gradually approached lines which were already made. Kento, or guide marks, were indicated on the block outside the design. An L-shaped mark, called kagi, was made with an exact angle at the upper left-hand corner, and another horizontal mark, called hikitsuke, in a line about ten inches away from the kagi on the upper margin. These two guide marks were placed on each block so that all the colors should register in the right position. It must have taken carvers and printers many years to discover the use and position of these guide marks. This invention brought to perfection such complicated printing as Utamaro's Teahouse Beauties, which was printed on both sides of the paper and showed the back and front views of the women without the difference of a hair's breadth in the outlines, even when held up against strong sunlight. There were definite reasons for placing the guide marks in these particular positions. The carver customarily began to cut the upper part of a design, which was placed on his right, because it was more natural to use the tool with a downward stroke. Though he tried to cut evenly both edges of a line, the side toward the cutter was apt to be the sharper.
For printing, the block was placed in the opposite direction to that used in carving, - that is, the edge which was nearest the carver was set farthest from the printer so that the gentler angle of each line faced toward him and the kagi toward his right knee. He applied the ink or pigment from the front outward, so that if an excess of ink or pigment should be dropped on the sharper edge of any line the design remained unmarred. The paper was fitted precisely to the inside angle of the kagi and then to the hikitsuke and pressed upward and outward. If the face of the most important figure in the design was situated too far from the usual position of the kagi, the kagi was placed on the corner of the block nearest to this face in order to avoid imperfect registration of the different blocks caused by the stretching of the paper, for even a hair's breadth difference of a register produced unsatisfactory results on such a delicate spot as the lips. In printing, the printer pressed with a baren the paper over the block by giving an encircling and rhythmical motion.
Proof sheets printed from the key block were sent to the designer, who roughly colored a sheet for each different color block, indicating the parts of the design where the same color should be applied. Regardless of the color desired for printing, the designer employed vermilion or shu to indicate which parts of the block were to be reserved and which were to be cut away, and designated on the margin of each sheet the colors actually to be used in printing, such as beni, blue, or green. The vermilion and shu did not sink into the wood and could easily be washed off after the necessary cutting was finished, along with what was left of the print pasted on the block as a color guide. To indicate white lines or dots representing rain or snow in the gray sky, the designer used light ink for the sky and dark ink for the rain or snow; and complicated geometrical designs on dresses were indicated by the same means. Color indications for minor parts were customarily made by pupils of the designer. When the cutter received these annotated proofs, he carved the necessary number of blocks, one for each color, with the kagi and hikitsuke indicated on it. A single block might be used for two colors if the areas occupied by each were small. Besides these simple color blocks, some technically complicated ones were required. Shaded sky lines, for example, or water, or transparent textiles through which another was to be shown, were printed from a block on which the shading began a quarter of an inch away from the original line indicated in the proof. This shaded area had to be rubbed down to the edge of the line with dried Dutch rush and polished with dried leaves of muku, or aphananthe aspera, to effect a gradual transition to the hollow spot where no colors were to be printed. In order to produce the fine meshes of mosquito nets and the like, two separate blocks were employed: one for horizontal, the other for vertical lines.
After all the necessary blocks were cut, they were turned over to the printer. His apprentices prepared the paper by applying a coat of dosa with a brush to its right side as a protection against water, and by drying it thoroughly indoors so that the colors would not run or become blurred when printed. Proper moisture was given to the paper before printing by inserting a wet sheet among every twenty or thirty sheets and keeping them under a heavy board for a few hours until all of them were uniformly damp. Since paper stretches when wet and shrinks when dry, it had to be kept at the same degree of moisture during the course of printing so that each sheet would remain exactly the same size throughout the process. With the application of dosa, the stretching and shrinking were greater; accordingly, these details had to be carefully watched in order to insure perfect registration. The paper best adapted for prints had to be soft and absorbent with smooth surface and long, strong fibre. There are a few kinds which meet these qualifications. They are chiefly masa and hosho. Both are made of broussonetia kashinoki and are sized with rice flour, but the quality of hosho is superior to masa. Hosho made in Echizen province is the best, the texture being velvety, yet tough; masa, a greater part of which came from Iyo province, is a little coarser and thinner. There are three grades of hosho, varying in thickness and toughness as well as size, the largest size being both thickest and finest in texture.
Roughly speaking, the sizes of prints are:
- Bai-oban, full sheet of medium-sized hosho
- Oban, half sheet of medium-sized hosho
- Chuban, quarter sheet of medium-sized hosho
- O-hosoban, one-third sheet of medium-sized hosho
- Aiban, half sheet of small-sized hosho
- Hosoban, one-third sheet of small-sized hosho
- Koban, quarter sheet of small-sized hosho
- O-chuban, quarter sheet of large-sized hosho
- Tanzaku, the full length of masa with various widths from 60 to 91 mm. wide
- Hosoban, used for benizuri, one-third sheet of masa
- Hashira-e, extra long masa from 730 x 130 to 585 x 125 mm.
- Kakemono-e, various sizes, some wide and long, some wider and shorter than hashira-e
The early kakemono-e are printed on ordinary masa, two pieces being pasted together in order to make the length. Extra long masa is used in later periods so that the whole designs were printed on one sheet.
The sizes and quality of paper vary also according to different periods. The early prints in black and white, urushi-e, beni-e, and even benizuri-e, were printed on masa. Though in existence from olden times, hosho did not come into use until the invention of elaborate printing, such as nishiki-e. Harunobu usually employed the largest and best hosho for his o-chuban. Generally speaking, all hosho used from the time of Koryusai and Shunsho to 1842 is of superior quality and of larger size than those of later periods. After 1842 hosho was replaced by masa, thus reducing the sizes of prints and quality of paper, owing to the prohibition of luxurious prints, except surimono, which, being privately published, were still printed on hosho, though against the law. The sizes of paper used by the same publisher at the same period, vary, too, because they were cut by hand. Most old prints in existence at the present time have been trimmed for mounting in albums, while all hashira-e and kakemono-e were once mounted as kakemono. It is difficult, therefore, to find the definite measurements of the respective sizes mentioned above. The approximate sizes of paper used only by Kiyonaga and his contemporaries are given here:
- Bai-oban, 321 x 454 mm.
- Oban, 396 x 268 mm.
- Chuban, 278 x 197 mm.
- Aiban, 328 x 228 mm.
- Hosoban (a), 317 x 141 mm.
- Hosoban (b), 329 x 152 mm.
- Koban, 161 x 117 mm.
- Hashira-e, 650 x 117-730 x 130 mm.
- Kakemono-e, 475 x 174; 388 x 150 mm.
The pigments employed in Kiyonaga's prints are as follows:
- Black, which was obtained by dissolving writing ink, made of pine soot and animal glue, in water for a few days and then grinding it in water and straining it.
- Beni, a clear red or pink, which was made from the flower of an herb called carthamus tinctorius dissolved with the acid from a plum.
- Vermilion, or oxidized quicksilver.
- Benigara, a dark opaque red, made by burning sulphate of iron.
- Red lead, or opaque scarlet.
- Ukon, a delicate vegetable yellow, which was extracted from the root of a plant of the same name, also called curcuma longa.
- Mustard yellow was obtained by boiling the bark of the plant, Zumi, or cormus Tschonoskii.
- Ai, or blue, was made from the leaves of ai, or polygonum tinctorium.
- Aigami, a delicate blue, which could be obtained by dipping paper in the juice of tsuyukusa, or commelina communis. A most delicate soft blue could be obtained by soaking aigami in water, but this color was fugitive and easily blurred if the printed color became wet.
Besides these primary colors, there were compounds of them which Kiyonaga also used:
- Purple or violet, for which commelina communis and carthamus tinctorius were
- Opaque brown, made from mixing benigara and ink.
- Yellowish salmon, a mixture of ukon and vermilion.
- Clear or grass green, zumi and ai mixed.
- Orange, zumi or ukon and beni mixed.
- For a heavy opaque tone in any color, white clay could be added to the mixture.
It is not known that Kiyonaga employed gold, silver, mica, malachite, or lapis lazuli for his prints. Rice paste was used as the medium to make vegetable pigments stick to paper, and animal glue for mineral colors.
In addition to the ordinary technique of printing, there were many special ways of producing a shaded or graduated effect:
- Fuki bokashi, or "wiped shading." The printer first wiped lightly with a wet cloth the part of the block where he desired shading to appear, and then went over the same spot with a wet brush which had pigment on one side only. Sometimes he had to repeat this process and print three or four times before he could get a softly graduated tone, because a better result was obtained by repeated printing with a lighter shade than by printing once with a darker shade.
- Atenashi bokashi, or "indefinite shading." In order to produce an unevenly shaded effect at a certain spot, such as a floating cloud near the moon, without employing a special block, a little water was put on the block, a drop of pigment added and both were stirred with a small brush.
- Hakkake, or "brushing over." This gave a shaded effect over a spot already printed with some other color, such as graded light ink over a pale green mountain or blue water.
- Jomen, or tsuyazuri. In order to give a shiny, smooth effect, such as a damask weave on a dress, the paper was laid face upward on a block carved with the pattern desired and the face of the paper was then rubbed at the required spots. This was the direct reverse of the ordinary methods of printing in which the paper was put face down on the block and rubbed with a baren on the back.
- Karazuri, or "embossing." Without the application of colors, but with a little moisture added to the block, the paper was rubbed hard at any required spot.
- Katsura no tsuyazuri, or "shiny printing for the hair." In addition to the key block, another was made with hair lines for the heads of figures. After an impression, including the heads, had been made from the key block with ordinary ink, a second impression of the hair only was made over the first from the same block with light ink, and later from the second block with dark ink. The hair was thus completed by three printings.
The order of printing was usually to print on the key block first, and then to print one of the lighter colors occupying a small space. When lighter and darker shades of the same color had to be shown, the lighter shade was printed along with other light colors, and the darker shade with darker colors later. The general ground was printed last of all, except for the beni and the finishing black over the hair and black satin obi or collar. The reason for printing in this order was that lighter colors are harder to register and are not likely to soil the paper.
Though performing such delicate and exact operations in print making, carvers and printers were not regarded as equal to the designer.
In 1765, when calendars were luxuriously printed for the first time in nishiki-e style after Harunobu's drawing, the important contributions of the carvers and printers toward this achievement were evidently recognized and their names were signed, occupying a position equal with that of the designer. A few years later, their names disappeared even from the surimono or calendar. Prints put on the market always bore only the designer's name until the middle of the nineteenth century, when the publishers began to add the names of carvers and printers, though in insignificant positions. The carver's name appeared from time to time on the colophon of picture books because he was considered to be more important than the printer.
In producing Japanese woodcut prints, in short, at least three men are required to cooperate in the work: an artist to make the design; a block-cutter to carve a key block after the designer's drawing, and also any necessary numbers of blocks in order to complete the whole color scheme; and a printer to print the design from these blocks. All these artisans worked for a publisher, and without his instructions a designer could not deal directly with cutters and printers. Naturally, first-class publishers hired skillful craftsmen in order to produce the prints in the most desirable state. Fine cutting demanded an able man who not only possessed an accurate hand in carving lines exactly but understood the meaning of each line to such an extent that he corrected, in the course of cutting, undesirable lines caused by the designer's slips of the brush. Carvers in early days must have had more culture than later ones. For example, Minami Hikojiro, who cut the blocks of Kiyonaga's Ehon Muchi Bukuro, was a novelette writer who wrote the introduction of that book. Undoubtedly he could work sympathetically on the blocks in order to bring out the master's art at its best.
The first-class printer, though uneducated in other ways, must also have had enough aesthetic sensitiveness to be trusted by the designer to mix his colors in such a way as to produce prints of a high standard. In short, the art expressed in a Japanese print is based upon the trinity of the designer, block-cutter, and printer. The publisher is the one who looks after the union of the three elements, and the one who takes up the project and carries it through financially. It was, therefore, very important for any Ukiyo-e designer to have a sympathetic, careful, and wealthy publisher to provide him with excellent craftsmen and to look after the whole business of printing without cutting down its expense. Otherwise even his marvellous design might not come out as a first-class print. It is unknown, however, in case of surimono, whether it was printed under the publisher's management or whether the carvers and printers who belonged to publishers were allowed to deal directly with the designer. The expense was undoubtedly paid in either case by the designer or his patron.
The publishers were, naturally, more interested in the salability of their products. Some followed the policy of producing the very best artistic quality of print, including design, drawing, block-cutting, and printing, regardless of expense, and selling it, accordingly, for a high price. Some took a different attitude, producing a less expensive and more popular-priced print, not particularly artistic, though the blockcutting and printing were good. There were others who only published prints of secondary quality, so that they could dispose of them reasonably, and still others who bought old worn-out blocks on which they carelessly printed pictures with cheap, bright pigments for people of strictly limited means and for the many visitors to Edo who had but a little spending money. When nishiki-e first appeared on the market, the wealthy customers were evidently willing to pay high prices for them, thus encouraging the development of an intricate printing technique and keeping its standard high until the middle of the nineteenth century, though the public taste had degenerated by that time.