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Astounding digital collection of Chikanobu and Yoshitoshi woodblock prints

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From the Claremont Colleges Digital Library site:

The Scripps College Collection of Japanese Prints, which numbers over 1500 works with more than 500 works by the artists Chikanobu (1838-1912) and Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), is primarily a teaching collection, with woodblock prints and illustrated books from the late 17th century to late 20th century. Most Japanese print designers working in the 18-19th centuries are represented, including more than 150 works by Hiroshige (1797-1858).

There are almost 300 huge, full color scans in the online collection. Each piece comes with a very detailed description and history, as well as a brief (sometimes not at all brief) story or explination of what the image is all about. For instance, here's the description of this, at first glance, rather simple work:

The upper panel shows the Chinese boy Shun with a hoe and the main image has a Japanese woman with a hoe. According to the Guo Jujing story, Shun was so diligent in plowing his parents' field, even though they were cruel to him, that elephants came down from the mountains to help him dig up the soil and birds flew in to help him weed the field. Emperor Yao was so impressed that he sent nine royal princes to help Shun farm and two princesses to be Shun's wives; later Emperor Yao retired, turning over the throne to Shun. Chikanobu juxtaposed this Chinese story with a depiction of a Japanese farm woman resting below a blossoming cherry tree. She looks out across the stream and sees 2 small sparrows flying toward her. Perhaps she is recalling how Shun was rewarded for his labor and hopes to be compensated herself. Chikanobu does not include elephants or mountains in the lower picture, making the scene more particularly Japanese in location with the gentle landscape and flowering branches The political overtones of the Chinese narrative are also missing - this woman will not become an empress. However, her honest labor should be appreciated by the viewer, who might assume she is motivated by filial devotion to some undepicted parents.

To say this is a treasure is a massive understatement.

Right now "only" Chikanobu is available online, so check back in a year. It'll take you at least that long to make it through what's there now. 

 

[via Start Drawing


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Zac Bentz
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