Published by the Reader Collection, Ontario Canada, 2014,

ISBN 978-0-9937035-0-8

 

Reader Collection > Guides > Guide to Japanese Woodblock Prints of Flowers and Birds > Styles 1-2

 

Chapter 3 Ė Styles 1-2

 

3.1†† Choice of Style

 

To address the question Ďwhy were the flower and bird drawn using a particular style and why did artists choose different styles?í this chapter presents information about eight stylistic schools whose members made flower-bird prints. The eight schools are first introduced and compared to provide an overview. Then for each school a more detailed description is given of its features, prominent artists and history of use. The latter is interpreted in terms of prevailing social conditions, cultural traditions and foreign artistic influences to help understand why a particular style was chosen.

 

 

 

3.2†† Eight Stylistic Schools

Historians of Japanese art recognize a number of stylistic schools based on differences in the approach taken by artists to depict their subject matter. Artists of eight of these schools drew flower-bird pictures. These eight schools are commonly called Nihonga, Maruyama-Shijō, Ukiyo-e, Kanō, Nagasaki, Nanga, Rinpa, and Sōsaku Hanga. The origin and meaning of these names are explained in the descriptions of individual schools which follow.

Stylistic boundaries between these schools are relatively soft because artists frequently borrowed and adapted techniques of other schools. As a result, differences between schools are typically quantitative rather than qualitative. In other words, one school may use a particular technique more often than another but the use of that technique is not restricted to a single school. The fact that differences are mainly quantitative makes it more challenging to distinguish between schools.

For a western viewer who is accustomed to judging a flower-bird picture based on the level of accuracy shown, comparing the accuracy of pictures drawn by different schools is perhaps the best way to distinguish between them. Figure 3.1 classifies the eight schools using four measures of accuracy; namely, (1) accurate flower-bird color scheme, (2) accurate flower-bird shape, (3) smooth bird body-edges, and (4) accurate flower-bird size. Of these four measures, only smooth bird body-edges requires any further explanation.† Artists drew the edges of a bird's body either accurately with smooth lines or inaccurately with rough lines to convey activity and help reveal the bird's inner spirit.

Figure 3.1 Four-step classification of eight Japanese stylistic schools (bold type) based on differences in the percentage of pictures showing features related to accuracy.

 

 

In this classification scheme the school whose pictures show greatest accuracy (i.e., Nihonga) appears on the far left of Figure 3.1. Proceeding from left to right the level of accuracy gets progressive lower until the least accurate school (i.e., Nanga school) is reached on the far right.

At each step in the classification procedure the eight schools are divided into smaller and smaller groups based on the percentage of their pictures which show accuracy for a particular measure.
At point A. the eight schools are divided into two groups based on the percentage of their pictures which show an accurate flower-bird color scheme (56-65% of pictures for each of three schools versus 6-31% for each of the other five schools).
At point B., the former three schools are further divided into two groups based on the percentage of their pictures which show accurate flower-bird shape (82% of pictures for the Nihonga school versus 53-57% for the other two schools).
At point C., the latter two schools are separated based on a difference in the percentage of pictures showing birds with smooth body-edges (84% for the Maruyama-Shijō school versus 45% for the Ukiyo-e school).
At point D. the five schools with 6-31% of their pictures showing an accurate flower-bird color scheme are divided into two groups based on the percentage of their pictures with accurate flower-bird shape (46-51% for two schools versus 30-31% for three schools).
At point E., the former two schools are separated based on the percentage of their pictures showing smooth bird body-edges (67% for the Kanō school versus 37% for the Nagasaki school).
At point F., the latter three schools are divided into two groups based on the percentage of pictures showing birds with smooth body-edges (46% for the Nanga school versus 91-92% for the other two schools).
At point G., the last two schools are separated based on the percentage of their pictures with accurate flower-bird size (68% for the Rimpa school versus 49% for the Sōsaku Hanga school).

 

3.3†† Revealing Flower and Bird Spirit

Traditional far-eastern artists aimed to reveal the inner spirit of their subjects (e.g., flowers and birds) rather than their external form (Rowland, 1954). Inner spirit is typically revealed by showing the subjects of a picture either in action or interacting in some way. A number of artistic techniques can be used to show, or suggest, action and interaction including the following five (Lauer, 1979):
(1) subject is drawn in an active position rather than a passive position (e.g., willow tit hanging on a lespedeza branch in Figure 3.2a),
(2) part of a subjectís body is not shown, implying that it is moving too fast to be seen completely (e.g., flying white-fronted goose and moving common reed in Figure 3.2b),
(3) subjectís body-edges are rough rather than smooth due to rapid movement or a state of excitement (e.g., outer feathers of a great tit standing on end in Figure 3.2c),
(4) subject is shown as part of a group rather than singly, implying interaction (e.g., pair of white-naped cranes and many chrysanthemum flowers in Figure 3.2d),
(5) subjects are arranged diagonally rather than horizontally or vertically, suggesting movement due to our association of a diagonal line with instability versus the stability of horizontal and vertical lines (e.g., narcissus flycatcher and Japanese kadsura in Figure 3.2e).

 

    Figure 3.2. Examples of five techniques used to help reveal flower and bird spirit.

 

 

(1) Bird in an active position Ė lespedeza (Lespedeza sp.) and willow tit (Poecile montanus ) by Hōbun Kikuchi (1890)

 

 

(2) Flower and bird incomplete Ė common reed (Phragmites australis) and white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) by Masayoshi Kitao (1814)

 

 

(3) Bird body-edges rough Ė floristís chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum grandiflorum) and great tit (Parus major) by Unga Tachibana (1882)

 

 

 

(4) flowers and birds in groups Ė chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum pacificum) and white-naped crane (Grus vipio) by Hōitsu Sakai (1815)

 

(5) flowers and bird arranged diagonally Ė Japanese kadsura (Kadsura japonica) and† narcissus flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina) by Bairei Kōno (1881)

 

All five techniques were used by the eight Japanese artistic schools that drew flower-bird pictures. Some techniques were used more often than others and schools differed in their use of a particular technique. The eight schools are classified and distinguished based on these differences in Figure 3.3. At each step in the classification procedure the eight schools are divided into smaller and smaller groups based on the percentage of their pictures that used a particular technique to reveal flower and bird spirit.

 

Figure 3.3 Four-step classification of eight Japanese stylistic schools (bold type) based on differences in the percentage of pictures showing features related to flower-bird spirit.

 

 

In this classification scheme the school with the highest percentage of pictures using these techniques (i.e., Nanga school) appears on the far left of Figure 3.3. Proceeding from left to right the use of these techniques decreases until the Sōsaku Hanga school is reached on the far right.

At point A. the eight schools are divided into two groups based on the percentage of their pictures which show flowers and birds arranged diagonally (60-77% of pictures for each of seven schools versus 49% for the Sōsaku Hanga school).
At point B., the remaining seven schools are divided into two groups based on the percentage of their pictures which show the bird subject in an active position (70-77% for each of five schools versus 50-54% for each of the other two schools).
At point C., the former five schools are divided into two groups based on the percentage of their pictures with rough bird body-edges (55-63% for each of three schools versus 8-34% for each of the other two schools).
At point D., the three schools with 55-63% of pictures with rough bird body-edges are divided into two groups based on the percentage of their pictures with flowers and birds shown incompletely (42% for the Nanga school versus 5-11% for the Ukiyo-e and Nagasaki schools).
At point E., the two schools with 8-34% of pictures with rough bird body-edges are divided into two groups based on the percentage of their pictures showing multiple flowers and birds (62% for the Rinpa school versus 43% for the Kanō school).
At point F., the two schools with 54-56% of pictures with the bird subject in an active position are divided into two groups based on the percentage of their pictures with rough bird body-edges (31% for the Nihonga school versus 16% for the Maruyama-Shijō school).

This classification has both similarities and differences with the previous classification of the eight schools based on their accuracy of flower-bird depiction (Figure 3.1).

They are similar in two respects. First, the Sōsaku Hanga school appears either at, or near, the right end of both classifications where pictures have relatively low accuracy and the least use of techniques to reveal flower-bird spirit. Second, the four schools of Ukiyo-e, Nagasaki, Kanō, and Rinpa occupy positions in the middle portions of both classifications. Their pictures show medium accuracy and medium use of techniques to reveal flower-bird spirit.

The two classifications also differ in two respects. First, the Nanga school appears at opposite ends of the two classifications. Nanga pictures are least accurate but make the greatest use of techniques to reveal flower-bird spirit. Second, the Nihonga and Maruyama-Shijō schools also appear at or near opposite ends of the two classifications. Their pictures are most accurate but make relatively limited use of techniques to reveal flower-bird spirit.

Reasons for these similarities and differences are considered in the descriptions of individual schools which follow. These descriptions are presented chronologically.† Additional information about each of the eight schools is available in the references listed in sections 6.1.4 through 6.1.11 of the Bibliography.

 

3.4 Style 1 - Kanō School† 狩野派

3.4.1†† Social Setting

In the early 1600s military leaders of the Tokugawa clan defeated their rivals and set up a new national government. To help maintain their control on power, government leaders promoted the Chinese philosophy of Confucianism which emphasized loyalty and moral behaviour by their subjects. In addition, they associated themselves with Chinese art and culture which had long been admired by the Japanese (Guth, 1996). Members of the Kanō family, appointed by the government as official state artists, were commissioned to produce paintings with Chinese themes, including flower-bird pictures. For the latter Kanō artists adopted the style of the Che School of Chinese painting (Impey, 1982).

 

3.4.2†† Painting Books

Some of the artists who were Kanō-trained or influenced published woodblock-printed books about Chinese-style painting. The audience for these books was mainly members of the cultured elite, military and government officials who wished to improve themselves culturally (Gerhart, 1999). Learning and cultural improvement were two additional Confucian principles promoted by government leaders.

Painting books were of two types, the first containing sample pictures plus written instruction and the second containing examples of works by famous artists. Notable contributors to books with written instructions were Morikuni Tachibana who published a series of six books between 1720 and 1749 and Morinori Sekichūshi whose 1729 book included one hundred pictures based on paintings of Kanō Taníyū and Kanō Tsunenobu. Morikuniís pictures were black-and-white line drawings of flowers and birds, typically one species of each as in Figure 3.4. Little or no background was included and subjects were drawn with a medium degree of accuracy. Accompanying text commented on characteristics of the subjects important for their depiction. Morinoriís pictures shared these stylistic features although the shapes of flowers and birds were usually less accurate. Figure 3.5 by Morinori illustrates two compositional features borrowed from Chinese flower-bird painters; namely, a branch with flowers emerging from the pictureís edge (i.e., broken-branch technique) and subjects positioned asymmetrically either in one corner or on one side as in this case (i.e., one-corner technique). Chinese painters used these techniques to help communicate the vastness of nature and the universe by forcing the viewer to complete the plantís outline in his mind, thereby extending the boundary of the picture outwards, and by including lots of empty space (i.e., the universe) (Boger, 1964).

 

Figure 3.4. Foxtail millet (Setaria italica) and Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) by Morikuni Tachibana (1720).

 

 

Figure 3.5. Camellia (Camellia japonica) and white-bellied pigeon (Treron sieboldii) by Morinori Sekichūshi (1729).

 

 

Many books showing works by famous artists were published, mostly in the eighteenth century (Table 3.1). Not surprisingly, these books focused mainly on Kanō artists.

 

Table 3.1. Publication dates and authors of painting books with pictures by famous artists copied by other artists who were Kanō-trained or influenced. Book titles are given in Chapter 4 under the authorsí names. C = Chinese Schools, H = Hanabusa School, K = Kanō School, Ki = Kitao School, S = Suiboku School, T = Tosa School, U = Unkoku School

Date

Author

Schools illustrated

1720

Shumboku Ōoka

C, K, S

1736

Michinobu Ōoka

K

1740

Shumboku Ōoka

C, K

1750

Shumboku Ōoka

C, H, K, T, U

1750

Shūzan Yoshimura

K

1751

Sesshōsai Terai

K

1751

Shumboku Ōoka

C, K, U

1752

Sadatake Takagi

K

1753

Shumboku Ōoka

C,K

1759

Shigenaga Nishimura

C, K

1766

Gyokusuisai Fujiwara Yoshikane

K

1767

Shūzan Yoshimura

C, K

1770

Rinshō Suzuki

H

1771

Settei Tsukioka

C, K

1773

Rinshō Suzuki

H

1774

Nobuatsu Yamamoto

K

1778

Rinshō Suzuki

H

1797

Shichirōbei Imai

C, K

1802

Dairō Ishikawa

K

1894-6

Gessai Fukui

K

 

To illustrate the range of stylistic variation evident in these books, six examples chosen from pictures included in two books by Shumboku Ōoka (1720, 1750) are shown in Figure 3.6. All pictures were black-and-white line drawings. Flower and bird subjects were drawn with varying degrees of accuracy but none were true to life. Stylistic differences among schools appear to be minimal, partly because woodblock printing of the time could not replicate important details of brush stroke and color in the original paintings and partly because the paintings were all copied by an artist trained in the use of a single style.

 

Figure 3.6. Six examples of pictures included in two painting books by Shumboku Ōoka (1720, 1750). The name of the painting school is bolded.

 

(1) Thunbergís geranium (Geranium thunbergii) and light-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus sinensis) by Motonobu Kanō

 

 

(2) Oak (Quercus serrata) and Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius) by the Chinese painter Yūan-chang Wang

 

(3) Japanese iris (Iris ensata) and an unidentified bird by Itchō Hanabusa

 

(4) Common reed† (Phragmites australis) and mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) by Gyōbu Tosa

 

 

(5) Sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) and barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) by the Suiboku artist Sesson Satake

 

(6) Sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) and white wagtail (Motacilla alba) by Tōji Unkoku

 

Full color was first used for woodblock-printed pictures in the 1760s and books by the last two authors listed in Table 3.1 included pictures in color. Dairō Ishikawa (1802) presented a series of sketches by Taníyū Kanō (Figure 3.7) while Gesssai Fukui (1894-6) reproduced paintings by Tsunenobu Kanō (Figure 3.8). A black-and-white version of the painting by Tsunenobu Kanō, copied by Morinori Sekichūshi in 1729 (Figures 3.9), illustrates the remarkable change in woodblock printing technology that occurred during the period of its use for painting books.

 

Figure 3.7. Plum (Prunus mume), tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa), golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus) and black-billed magpie (Pica pica) sketched by Taníyū Kanō and copied by Dairō Ishikawa (1802).

 

Figures 3.8 and 3.9. Hardy begonia (Begonia grandis), wire grass (Eleusine indica) and winter wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) painted by Tsunenobu Kanō and copied by Gessai Fukui (1896) on the left and by Morinori Sekichūshi (1729) on the right.

 

 

3.4.3†† Encyclopedias

Some artists who were Kanō-trained or influenced illustrated encyclopedias that were published to facilitate learning and cultural improvement by the educated segment of Japanese society. Confucian philosophy championed the correct use of words, including the names of other living things, so encyclopedias usually contained a volume about plants and another about birds. While the focus of the bird volume was, of course, birds some pictures also included flowers as part of the background. (i.e., a flower-bird picture). The publication date and author of encyclopedias with flower-bird pictures are listed in Table 3.2.

 

Table 3.2. Publication date and author of encyclopedias illustrated by Kanō-trained, or influenced, artists. Book titles are given in Chapter 4 under the authorsí names.

 

Date

Author

1683

Moronobu Hishikawa

1695

Tekisai Nakamura

1712

Ryōan Terashima

1718

Seiemon Kashiwaraya

1719

Morikuni Tachibana

1779

Yasukuni Tachibana

1789

Shūsui Shimokōbe

1794

Shichirōbei Imai

 

Two examples of encyclopedia pictures, one by Moronobu Hishikawa (Figure 3.10) and the other by Ryōan Terashima (Figure 3.11), are sufficient to illustrate their stylistic features.† A black-and-white line drawing was used to show the subjectís basic shape. Surprisingly little surface detail was included and even the shape was often not entirely correct. Most pictures were relatively small, similar in size to that by Ryōan. Each picture was accompanied by a written description of the subject. Even with this written description it was likely difficult for readers to match the flowers and birds depicted with those seen outdoors because the quality of pictures was so poor.

 

Figure 3.10. Plum (Prunus mume) and Japanese bush-warbler (Cettia diphone) by Moronobu Hishikawa (1683).

 

Figure 3.11. Hall crabapple (Malus halliana) and Japanese robin (Erithacus akahige) from the encyclopedia by Ryōan Terashima (1712).

 

 

Some of these pictures were redrawn and published in the late nineteenth century (Table 3.3). The original accompanying text was eliminated and partial color was added in some cases. Even with partial color it would still be difficult for readers to match real flowers and birds with those depicted.

 

Table 3.3. Publication date and author of late nineteenth century books with flower-bird pictures drawn in the Kanō style. Book titles are given in Chapter 4 under the authorsí names.

 

Date

Author

1881

Katsuzō Harada

1889

Heizaemon Endō

1893

Shōtarō Asami

undated

Hanzō Matsuzaki

 

3.4.4†† Summary

Woodblock-printed pictures of flowers and birds were drawn first by artists who were Kanō-trained or influenced, starting in the 1680s. These pictures were included in books published to inform readers either about the flower-birds themselves (i.e., encyclopedias) or about techniques used to paint them (i.e., painting books). The audience for these books was members of Japanese society who wished to improve themselves culturally.

Of the pictures examined for this analysis, almost all (94%) were black-and-white line drawings. The sparing use of color (6%) reflects the state of woodblock printing technology at the time when most pictures were published (i.e., 1680s to 1760s). Only about half (46%) of the pictures showed flower and bird shapes accurately. Artists were following the Chinese practice of de-emphasizing external form in favor of capturing the inner spirit of the subject.†To help reveal inner spirit, birds were often shown in an active position (70% of pictures) and flower-bird subjects were arranged diagonally (66% of pictures). Other features of Chinese flower-bird painting were also used, including asymmetric positioning of subjects (i.e., one-corner technique) and showing plant parts emerging from the edge of the picture (i.e., broken-branch technique). The Chinese style was followed largely because it was promoted by government leaders of the time.

 

 

3.5 Style 2 - Ukiyo-e School ††浮世絵派

3.5.1†† Social setting

When military leaders of the Tokugawa clan established a new national government in the early 1600s they adopted the Confucian four-class system as the basis for social order. Rulers and government officials were the top class, followed in turn by farmers, craftsmen and merchants. Ironically, those at the bottom of this social hierarchy often had more disposable income than those immediately above and many townsmen (i.e., craftsmen, merchants) used it to pursue a life of pleasure (Jenkins, 1993). Art work favored by townsmen was given the name Ukiyo-e which means pictures (e) of the floating (i.e., transient) world (Ukiyo). Some townsmen used the transience of life as an excuse for pursuing a life of sensory pleasure.

Pictures of flowers and birds likely appealed to townsmen for four reasons. First, brightly colored flowers and birds were a source of sensory pleasure. Second, exotic birds and flowers were both novel and entertaining. Third, many flowers and birds were symbolically associated with human feelings, including pleasure. Fourth, flower-bird pictures were admired by the cultured ruling class and ownership of such pictures implied cultural sophistication (Hockley, 2003).

Flower-bird pictures drawn by Ukiyo-e artists were used in four different ways; namely, wall decoration, art instruction, poetry illustration, and nature appreciation. Each of these uses is described, in turn, below.

 

3.5.2†† Wall Decoration

Starting in the early 1700s, printed flower-bird pictures were sold individually as inexpensive wall decorations (Narazaki, 1970). Four examples are given in Figure 3.12. The major axis of these decorative pictures was usually vertical, copying that of the more expensive scroll paintings. Flowers and birds were typically outlined in black and within the outlines color was applied. Initially only a few colors were used but by the late 1700s most pictures were multi-colored. Color was applied evenly giving the picture a flat, two-dimensional appearance. Rich, bright colors were preferred, especially after 1850 when synthetic chemical pigments from Europe became widely available. Colors chosen by the artist for flowers and birds were not entirely accurate, especially after 1850, suggesting that visual appeal was more important than accuracy. A pictureís sensual appeal could be further heightened by choosing either a flower or bird subject commonly associated with a human feeling. This was the case for 96% of Ukiyo-e decorative pictures included in this analysis. To help the viewer make an association, key features of flower-bird color and shape were shown but subjects were rarely drawn true to life.

Ukiyo-e artists were more concerned with revealing the subjectís inner spirit than its external appearance (Hillier, 1960). Inner spirit was revealed by showing the bird in an active position (Figure 3.12 a,c,d) or with rough body-edges (Figure 3.12 a,c) or arranged diagonally with flowers (Figure 3.12 b,c).

 

Figure 3.12. Four Ukiyo-e flower-bird pictures used for wall decoration at different times.

 

 

(a) 1700-49: Floristís chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum grandiflorum) and white-naped crane (Grus vipio) by Shigenaga Nishimura

 

 

(b) 1750-99: Rose-of-sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) and long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus) by Koryūsai Isoda

 

(c) 1800-49: Floristís chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum grandiflorum) and mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) by Hiroshige Utagawa

 

(d) 1850-99: Floristís chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum grandiflorum), eulalia (Miscanthus sinensis), lespedeza (Lespedeza sp.), scabious patrinia (Patrinia scabiosifolia), balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus), and red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) by Gyōsan

 

Ukiyo-e artists who drew decorative flower-bird pictures are listed in Table 3.3. Only a few drew flower-bird pictures in the eighteenth century with Koryūsai Isoda being the most notable. During the following century many more drew flower-bird pictures especially members of the Utagawa family. Hiroshige Utagawa was the most important of these artists, producing hundreds of different designs. The output of all other artists was relatively modest by comparison.

 

Table 3.3. Ukiyo-e artists who drew decorative flower-bird prints arranged by the half-century in which they were most active and by the number of their pictures included in this analysis (** = 100-999, * = 10-99, blank = 1-9).

1700-49

Masanobu Okumura

Shigenaga Nishimura

 

Shigenobu Nishimura

 

1750-99

Koryūsai Isoda*

Bunchō Ippitsusai

Goshichi Harukawa

 

Harunobu Suzuki

Toyonobu Ishikawa

1800-49

Hiroshige Utagawa**

Hokusai Katsushika*

Taito II Katsushika *

Eisen Ikeda*

Utamaro Kitagawa

Toyohiro Utagawa

Shigemasa Kitao

Kunisato Utagawa

Kunisada Utagawa

Kunitsuna Utagawa

 

Sadatora Utagawa

Sekijo Kajihara

Sekkyō Sawa

Tsukimaro Kitagawa

Hokkei Hatsugorō

Shumman Kubo

Shūchō Tamagawa

Choki Eishosai

Eiichi Kobayashi

Ichiga Oki

Jūkusai Kikukawa

Shungyōsai Hayama

1850-99

Rinsai Shiba*

Gyōsan*

Sadanobu II Hasegawa*

Yoshikazu Utagawa

Fusatane Utagawa

 

Kyōsai Kawanabe

Hiroshige II Utagawa

Kunisada II Utagawa

Konobu Hasegawa

Motoharu Ōju

 

3.5.3†† Art Instruction

Images of flowers and birds appeared on a wide range of consumer goods including fans, textiles, dishes, and boxes (Stern, 1976). Ukiyo-e artists provided ideas and models for this imagery in art instruction books. These books usually included human figures as well, often drawn in a humorous, entertaining way. Judging from the large number of books published (Table 3.4), they were very popular. Most were published in the nineteenth century with Hokusai Katsushika and his followers being the most important contributors.

 

Table 3.4. Publication date and author of Ukiyo-e art instruction books. Book titles are given in Chapter 4 under the authorsí names.

 

Date

Author

1795

Masayoshi Kitao

1812

Hokusai Katsushika

undated

Genroku Nishimura

1815

Masayoshi Kitao

1818

Hokumei Inoue

1819

Hokusai Katsushika

1820

Hokusai Katsushika

1824

Hokuun Katsushika

1827

Taito II Katsushika

1828

Eisen Ikeda

1828

Hokusai Katsushika

undated

Kunisada Utagawa

1831

Bunsen Seki

1836

Hokusai Katsushika

undated

Eisen Ikeda

1843

Hokusai Katsushika

1848

Taito II Katsushika

1849

Bunsen Seki

1849

Hokusai Katsushika

1849

Eisen Ikeda

1851

Hiroshige Utagawa

1852

Hokuju Katsushika

1861

Isai Katsushika

1862

Bunshō Nomura

1864

Sadahide Utagawa

1879

Arisato Kitazume

1879

Hiroshige III Utagawa

Date

Author

1880

Kumasaburō Shimizu

1880

Eitaku Kobayashi

1880

Isai Katsushika

1880

Fumiyaki Noda

1880

Tokutarō Naoe

1881

Kunimori II Utagawa

1881

Kyōsai Kawanabe

1881

Tōjirō Arai

1881

Yoshimaru II Utagawa

1881

Kiyoshi Takizawa

1882

Enryō Shikaidō

1882

Motoyuki Fukao

1882

Tōjirō Arai

1884

Kinbee Yoshida

1886

Seitarō Kondō

1887

Kyūjirō Sawa

1887

Seisai Kishimoto

1887

Shigeji Okuyama

1888

Kiyoshi Takizawa

1889

Eikichi Miyake

1889

Rikisō Ichikawa

1890

Hokusai Katsushika

1891

Raijirō Ichikawa

1899

Eiji Takahashi

1905

Kiyoshi Takizawa

1910

Dōun Nakazumi

Images in these books were usually small, black and white line-drawings with color highlights (Figure 3.13). Detail was kept to a minimum consistent with the role of the image as a simple model. Accuracy was also sacrificed. The small size of each image meant that more than one could be presented on a single page. In some cases images even overlapped (Figure 3.13c).

 

Figure 3.13. Examples of flower-bird images from three Ukiyo-e art instruction books.

 

 

(a) Fringed pink (Dianthus superbus) and lesser cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus) on the left and cherry (Prunus sp.) plus green pheasant (Phasianus versicolor) on the right by Hokusai Katsushika (1843)

 

(b) Primrose (Primula vulgaris), dandelion (Taraxacum sp.), gray wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) and black bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus) by Taito II Katsushika (1848)

 

 

 

(c) Common reed (Phragmites australis) and gray wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) inset and cherry (Prunus sp.) plus Eurasian bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) by Kiyoshi Takizawa (1888)

 

3.5.4†† Poetry Illustration

Between the early 1700s and mid-1800s composing and reading poetry were popular cultural activities (Mirviss and Carpenter, 1995). Published poems were often accompanied by pictures drawn by Ukiyo-e artists to further enhance the mood or theme of the poems. Some of these pictures featured flowers and birds. Four examples are given in Figure 3.14. Initially pictures were black and white line-drawings but by the late 1700s most were multi-colored. Other stylistic features were similar to those of decorative pictures described above. Most poems were either kyōka (Figure 3.14a,b,c) or haikai (Figure 3.1.4d). Kyōka is a 31-syllable poem presented in 5-lines of 5, 7, 5, 7 and 7 syllables. It parodied traditional Japanese court verse (i.e., waka) through humorous word play. Haikai is a 17-syllable poem presented in 3-lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. The poem merely suggested a certain mood or season and left it to readers to complete the meaning for themselves. It typically contained a season word, called kigo in Japanese, which could be the name of a flower or bird associated symbolically with that season.

†† This illustrated poetry was published either in books (Figure 3.14a,b) or as individual prints. Some prints were rectangular (Figure 3.14c) while others were nearly square (Figure 3.14d). The nearly square format, called surimono, was often used as a greeting card or present for friends to celebrate the New Year and return of spring. The rectangular format was more suitable for display and some were likely used as wall decorations.

Figure 3.14. Four examples of poetry illustration by Ukiyo-e artists.

 

 

(a) Plum (Prunus mume) and Japanese bush-warbler (Cettia diphone) by Sukenobu Nishikawa (1730)

 

 

(b) Plum (Prunus mume), northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) and bull-headed shrike (Lanius bucephalus) by Utamaro Kitagawa (1790)

 

(c)† Cotton-rose (Hibiscus mutabilis) and black-naped oriole (Oriolus chinensis) by Hiroshige Utagawa

 

(d) Rape (Brassica napus) and green pheasant (Phasianus versicolor) by Hokkei Hatsugorō

 

Ukiyo-e artists who illustrated poetry with flower-bird pictures are listed in Table 3.5. Utamaro Kitagawa is the most notable among those using the book format. His work was much admired, as it is today (Meech-Pekarik, 1981). The greatest number of flower-bird surimono were published by Hokusai Katsushika and his followers while Hiroshige Utagawa and his successor Hiroshige II published the most rectangular prints with a poem inscribed.

 

Table 3.5. Ukiyo-e artists who illustrated poetry on a book page (B), or surimono (S), or rectangular print (R). Book titles are given in Chapter 4 under the authorsí names. Artists are arranged by the half-century in which they were most active.

 

1700-49

Sukenobu Nishikawa (1730, 1734) B

1750-99

Harunobu Suzuki (1760) B

Utamaro Kitagawa (1790) B

Hyakki Saníemon S

1800-49

Hokusai Katsushika (1828) B, S, R

Hokkei Hatsugorō (1830, undated) B, S

Shigemasa Kitao (undated) B, S

Hokuba Arisaka S

Shumman Kubo S

Hiroshige Utagawa R

1850-99

Hanzan Matsukawa (1894) B

Hiroshige II Utagawa R

Sadanobu II Hasegawa R

 

3.5.5†† Nature Appreciation

Some books published by Ukiyo-e artists included pictures of only flowers and birds (Table 3.6). Presumably these flower-bird books were intended for people with a special interest in nature. The earliest of these books, by Masayoshi Kitao (1789), focused on birds imported from China. Subsequent books included a mixture of exotic (65%) and native (35%) birds and flowers.

 

Table 3.6. Publication date and author of Ukiyo-e flower-bird books. Book titles are given in Chapter 4 under the authorsí names.

 

Date

Author

1789

Masayoshi Kitao

1805, 1827

Shigemasa Kitao

1832

Koji Shōsō

1856

Shigenobu Yanagawa

1859

Sūgakudō Nakayama

1878

Yoshiharu Utagawa

1879

Kiyoshi Takizawa

1879

Kyōsai Kawanabe

1879

Osui Asai

1879

Seisai Itō

1880

Yonezō Kobayashi

1881

Katsuzō Harada

1881

Seisai Itō

Date

Author

1890

Gintarō Higuchi

1890

Itsujirō Miwa

1890

Katsugorō Inoue

1891

Satarō Nagao

1891

Shūken Handa

1892

Gorō Imae

1893

Taki Sugiyama

1907

Yoshimori Ikkōsai

undated

Fusatane Utagawa

undated

Hiroshige III Utagawa

undated

Kagematsu Utagawa

undated

Rōsai

undated

Yoshitsuna Utagawa

undated

Yoshiharu Utagawa

 

Books by Shigemasa Kitao (1805, 1827) and Sūgakudō Nakayama (1859) established a style that was followed by later artists. A picture from each of these two books is given in Figure 3.15. Flowers and birds were shown in full color but colors were not entirely accurate in most cases. Pictures published after 1850 often featured bright colors (e.g., yellow in Figure 3.15b) which was made possible by the importation of new chemical pigments from Europe. Shapes of flowers and birds were not always true to life as artists sacrificed accuracy to help reveal a subjectís inner spirit. Birds were often shown in an active, but somewhat unnatural, pose (Figure 3.15a) or with rough body-edges (Figure 3.15b). Flower size and shape were sometimes exaggerated for effect (Figure 3.15b). These inaccuracies reduced the usefulness of these books as identification guides.

 

Figure 3.15. Pictures from two flower-bird books published by Ukiyo-e artists.

 

 

(a) Pomegranate (Punica granatum) and white-rumped munia (Lonchura striata) by Shigemasa Kitao (1805)

 

(b) Kobus magnolia (Magnolia kobus) and canary (Serinus canaria) by Sūgakudō Nakayama (1859)

 

Summary and Comparison

In the early 1600s government leaders of the Tokugawa clan created a social hierarchy with themselves at the top and townsmen (i.e., craftsmen and merchants) at the bottom. While leaders had power townsmen had money which they spent on entertainment, including art. This art was called Ukiyo-e which means floating (or transient) world pictures, referring to the transient life of sensual pleasure pursued by some townsmen.

The format, subject and style of Ukiyo-e art were similar to Kanō-style art in some respects and different in others. Kanō-style art was commissioned by government leaders while Ukiyo-e art was purchased largely by townsmen. Kanō-influenced artists illustrated encyclopedias with separate volumes for flowers and birds while Ukiyo-e artists illustrated books featuring both flowers and birds. Ukiyo-e books were less instructive, giving flower and bird names but no accompanying text as did encyclopedias. The absence of text allowed pictures to be larger which increased their visual appeal. Both Kanō-influenced and Ukiyo-e artists published books for art instruction but their intended audience was different. Kanō-influenced artists catered to the educated, upper class with pictures of paintings by famous Chinese and Japanese artists. Ukiyo-e artists provided simple flower-bird models for use by craftsmen who decorated consumer goods. Poetry was popular with all classes but townsmen parodied the poetry favored by the elite. Ukiyo-e artists added pictures to poems favored by townsmen and these poem-pictures were used both as greeting cards and as presents for friends. Ukiyo-e artists also drew many flower-bird pictures without poems inscribed. They were sold individually as inexpensive wall decorations, similar to the use of Kanō-painted scrolls by the elite.

Ukiyo-e pictures almost always included a flower or bird that was symbolically associated with a human feeling or season of the year (i.e., 96% of pictures included in this analysis). Kanō-influenced pictures were only slightly less symbolic (92%). Kanō-influenced artists favored Chinese subject matter which included some flowers and birds not native to Japan. Ukiyo-e art featured even more exotic species (i.e., 115 species for Ukiyo-e pictures versus 76 species for Kanō-influenced pictures included in this analysis). Many of these exotic species would have been both novel and entertaining to townsmen.†

The flower-bird pictures drawn by Kanō-influenced artists were mostly black and white line drawings. Their use of black and white instead of color reflected the state of woodblock printing technology at the time. Most Ukiyo-e artists worked later when advances in printing technology made it possible to make multi-colored pictures. Ukiyo-e artists continued to use black to outline flowers and birds and then often filled these outlines with color. Only a few colors were used for flower-bird images which were intended only to provide ideas for craftsmen decorating consumer goods. Pictures produced for all other purposes, including wall decoration, poetry illustration and nature appreciation were largely multi-colored. Artists who worked after 1850 had the widest range of color available to them due to the importation of synthetic chemical pigments from Europe. Particularly bright colors were chosen then to maximize the visual appeal of pictures to purchasers wanting visual stimulation. Regardless of the number of colors used, they were applied evenly to create a two-dimensional picture. The use of uniformly-applied color is an important characteristic of Ukiyo-e art (Bell, 2004).

Kanō-influenced artists followed the eastern tradition of attempting to reveal a subjectís inner spirit instead of its external appearance. Ukiyo-e artists continued this practice. Shapes of flowers and birds were drawn accurately on only 53% of pictures included in this analysis versus 46% for pictures drawn by Kanō-influenced artists. Compared to Kanō-influenced artists (K), Ukiyo-e artists (U) made even greater use of techniques to reveal a subjectís spirit; namely, birds shown in an active position (75% U versus 70% K), rough bird body-edges (55% U versus 33% K), and birds arranged diagonally with flowers (79% U versus 66% K). Spirited subjects would be particularly appealing to townsmen who sought lively entertainment to fill their spare time.

 

 

 

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