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  • Thumbnail for Two Geisha Dancing on a Stage
    Two Geisha Dancing on a Stage by Yashima Gakutei (1786-1868)

    Surimono-style woodblock print in ink, color, gold, and silver, with embossing on thick paper. 16" x 13" in good condition. An Ukiyo-e printmaker, Gakutei was a native of Edo, but lived and worked in Osaka in the 1830's. His work was much influenced by Hokusai. A Kyoka poet, Gakutei also put his own poems on his prints. Popular in his time, he was a good craftsman who made many excellent surimono and book illustrations. This print is a surimono (literally, "printed things"), a special type of Ukiyo-e woodblock print that combines poetry and printmaking in an often complex verbal-visual exchange. Produced largely during the second half of the Edo period, from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries, these privately published, limited-edition prints are extremely rare. Catering to the refined tastes of their literati patrons, surimono allowed higher standards of production. They were usually commissioned by groups of amateur poets to serve as New Year's greeting cards or as announcements of special events. Thus, the subjects most commonly represented were images of spring, especially scenes of New Year's activities, and auspicious symbols. The production of a surimono represented the collaboration of poets, artists, calligraphers, engravers, and publishers. Prints were generally initiated by a poet who would commission an artist to create a complementary motif or scene. The text and artist's design would then be taken to a private publisher who, working with a calligrapher and engraver, prepared the necessary blocks. The resulting prints were then distributed among the poet's friends and associates.