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Bokushoku Hakurin ni Sokaijo (Viewing black color on the blue ocean)

Bokushoku Hakurin ni Sokaijo (Viewing black color on the blue ocean)



Suzuki Harunobu (Japanese: 鈴木 春信; c. 1725 – 15 July 1770) was the first to produce full-color prints (nishiki-e) in 1765, rendering obsolete the former modes of two- and three-color prints.

Harunobu was from a samurai family, and had an ancestor who was a retainer of Tokugawa Ieyasu in Mikawa Province; this Suzuki accompanied Ieyasu to Edo when the latter had his capital built there. In 1764, as a result of his social connections, he was chosen to aid these samurai in their amateur efforts to create e-goyomi [ja] calendars prints. These calendar prints, would be the first nishiki-e (brocade prints).

The most important innovation in the creation of nishiki-e was the ability of Harunobu, again due to the wealth of his clients, to use as many separate blocks as he wished for a single image. The new technique depended on using notches and wedges to hold the paper in place and keep the successive color printings in the register. Harunobu was the first ukiyo-e artist to consistently use more than three colors in each print.

His figures are all very thin and light; some critics say that all his figures look like children. Unlike many of his predecessors, he did not seek to have the girls' kimono dominate the viewer's attention. Harunobu is also acclaimed as being one of the greatest artists of this period in depicting ordinary urban life in Edo. His subjects are not restricted to courtesans, kabuki actors, and sumo wrestlers, but include street vendors, errand boys.

Charles Stewart Smith (1832-1909) was an art collector and businessman. As a businessman, Smith was a president, and director of the Associates Land Company, vice president and director of the City and Suburban Homes Company, treasurer and director of the Woodlawn Cemetery, trustee of Barnard College and director of the Fifth Avenue Bank, German Alliance Insurance Company, Greenwich Savings Bank, and Fourth National Bank. He was a member of the Union League, Lawyers, Players, Century, and Merchants Club. As an art collector, Smith was a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vice President of the Society of Art Collectors (558 Fifth Avenue, New York). In 1892, while traveling in Japan on his honeymoon with his third wife, he purchased several thousand Japanese prints, ceramics, and paintings from the British military man, journalist, author and collector Captain Frank Brinkley (1841-1912). In 1901 Smith donated 1,763 Japanese woodcut prints to the New York Public Library and the rest to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Among these color woodcuts is a celebrated group of prints by Kitagawa Utamaro, as well as examples of the work of Harunobu, Koryusai, Sharaku, and Hokusai.



1766 - 1766


New York Public Library

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Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication ("CCO 1.0 Dedication")