Category Archives: Sosaku-hanga woodblock prints

THE GATE OF THE SUN (Maeda Masao)

With its structure enlivened by 400 polychrome and golden sculptures of the Kano school (狩野派) depicting giraffes, lions, dragons, birds, flowers and phoenixes, children, wise old men and immortal creatures, the “gate of the sun” Yomeimon (陽明門) is undoubtedly one of the most striking elements of the temple complex Nikko Toshogu (日光東照宮) and is so fascinating that it has also been renamed Higurashi no Mon (日暮御門), the gate that can be admired from dawn to dusk without getting tired.

In one of the columns of the gate the sculptures were deliberately made upside down to placate the evil spirits: it was thought, in effect, that the artistic opulence could trigger their anger.

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NEAR THE YASAKA SHRINE (Kotozuka Eiichi)

The Hokanji Temple (法観寺), known colloquially as Yasakanoto (八坂の塔), is a pagoda that stands out on the Higashiyama District (東山区), a stone’s throw from the floating world of geisha (芸者) in Kyoto. Its uniqueness consists in the fact that it is an isolated architectural element, since the temple complex of which it was part has been practically swept away by a series of fires and earthquakes that have occurred over the years.

Here we see it depicted, from the perspective of the Kodaiji Park (高台寺公園), in a refined woodblock print of the sosaku-hanga (創作版画) type made in 1935 by the artist Kotozuka Eiichi (琴塚英一) and entitled “Near the Yasaka Shrine” (八坂附近).

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WHITE HORSE (Urushibara Mokuchu)

Large vertical format woodblock print of the sosaku-hanga (創作版画) type signed by Urushibara Mokuchu (漆原木虫) and made in the difficult years after the end of the Second World War, when the artist devoted himself to the production of his famous horses to ease his financial situation.

The horses of Urushibara Mokuchu (1888 – 1953) are stylistically related to the Chinese pictorial tradition. In fact, the artist, born in Tokyo but moved to London at the age of only nineteen, given his ability was even commissioned by the prestigious British Museum to restore and reproduce several important works including Chinese.

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A CONTENTED SPIRIT (Shiba Ayumi)

Her life ended in sadness, because everybody said that she was ugly. She really wanted to become beautiful. Her strong regrets caused her to come back, and when she saw her body shining in the moonlight, her white bones looked so beautiful. «I really am very beautiful!». She realised at last that she had real beauty inside herself. Laughing away all her previous cares, she could say: «Now I am totally free. I will live my real life full of happiness!».

With these touching words the artist Shiba Ayumi (志波歩), who has drawn, carved and printed this precious woodblock print of the sosaku-hanga (創作版画) type, describes the sad parable of a woman of pleasure (遊女) who is depicted when she was a child and post mortem.

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