Sunday, 13 March 2011

Flower Woodblock Prints

A while ago I bought some Japanese woodblock prints on eBay. They are depicting scenes from everyday life and they all have references to flowers, flower arranging or flower symbolism. I guess that's what caught my interest. I recognize some of my own relation to flowers in these pictures.

To my untrained eye it doesn't look like high quality prints. I'm not an expert on woodblock prints, but I guess the affection value is higher than the financial.

This is perfectly fine with me. I've been told that the same woodblocks were used many times, and even sold to less scrupulous editors when they
weren't good enough anymore. The quality difference between the first edition and later prints is reflected in the price level.

The first print has a motive of a young man balancing on a fence, holding on to some kind of flowering branch. In this print Harunobu (1725?–1770) emphasizes the contrast between the long perspectives in life, represented by a small pine tree, and the present moment that will soon pass away, represented by the short lived blossom.

The second print also has a spring motive. A woman with long hair walking under a Sakura, Cherry blossom tree. I love the way she is catching the flower petals blowing in the air, or maybe just protecting her hair with a scarf. This woodblock was designed by Kunisada (1786-1865).

Lastly an autumn motive. In this design by Shigenaga (1697-1756), three young women are admiring and measuring a very large Kiku, Chrysanthemum, in a vase. To the right are three other Kiku of different colours prepared for an exhibition.

I love my woodblock prints. Next I'm going to look for prints of men working with ikebana. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

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