Page:Japanese Wood Engravings.djvu/40

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JAPANESE WOOD ENGRAVINGS

attained by the artists of the Ukiyo yé but these, too, were ideal creations (Fig. 29). In fact, although the representations of women will always be found the most pleasing specimens in a collection of Japanese prints, they are not the women of Japan or of any other country, but of the artist's imagination.

Landscape, birds, and flowers, the favourite subjects of the painter, appeared but little in the broadsides of the last century. It was Hokusai who set the example in landscape, in his large views of Fuji, which were published at the beginning of the present century; and Hiroshigé, many years later, made a speciality of serial issues of ichimai-yé recording the beautiful scenery of his native country; but the Toriis and Katsugawas, the fathers of artistic chromoxylography, left this section of art untouched.

The Japanese broadsides were published in sheets, one giving the whole of the subject, or forming only a segment of the complete picture. Most commonly three sheets were required to make up the scene depicted, but sometimes the number rose to four or five. The purchaser usually had these mounted and preserved in books or rolls.

The art of colour-printing was not confined to the production of theatrical and other broadsides. It was also used in the illustration of books, and in the decoration of New Year's cards (surimono) fans, umbrellas, and letter-paper, as well as for many other purposes; but the greatest variety was to be found in the ichimai-yé, although the book and the New Year's card often displayed more evidence of care in technical details.

The surimono or New Year's cards, which came into fashion in Yedo in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, are gems of chromoxylography, and display the technical resources of the engraver at their best. They are usually of quarto or octavo size, printed with great care on thick creamy paper, adorned with designs by well-known artists of the popular school, and bearing some little conceit in the form of a verselet or proverb. The best period is between 1800 and 1840.

Chromoxylography after Kiyonobu was carried on by men of the same school, including Kiyomasu, Kiyomitsu, Kiyotané, Kiyoshigé, Nishimura Shigenaga (Plate 1), and Ishikawa Toyonobu down to about 1765, when, under Suzuki Harunobu (Plate 2) and Torii