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  • Thumbnail for Hana chiru sato
    Hana chiru sato by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)

    From the series "Faithful depictions of the figure of the shining prince" (Sono sugata Hikaru no utushi-e). Woodblock print; ink and colors on paper. This print is number 11 in the series. It is heavily trimmed along the left side and is missing its border. This print isfrom a series satirizing the Tale of Genji, the celebrated tenth century Japanese novel of Heian period courtly life, focusing on the assorted love affairs of Prince Genji and his clan. The Tale of Genji, by the court lady Murasaki Shikibu, is one of the most popular themes for illustrated book and paintings throughout Japanese history. The novel is renowned as the world's first novel. It includes 54 chapters, so most series have 54 prints plus a title page. These prints essentially parody the original in order to make the ancient subject more appealing to a contemporary audience. Therefore, the artist represented the figures in contemporary clothing and placed them in a modern setting.

  • Thumbnail for Umega-e - woodblock print
    Umega-e - woodblock print by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)

    From the series: Faithful depictions of the figure of the shining prince (Sono sugata Hikaru no utushi-e). Woodblock print; ink and colors on paper. This print is number 32 in the series. The borders of this print has been trimmed. This print is from a series satirizing the Tale of Genji, the celebrated tenth century Japanese novel of Heian period courtly life, focusing on the assorted love affairs of Prince Genji and his clan. The Tale of Genji, by the court lady Murasaki Shikibu, is one of the most popular themes for illustrated book and paintings throughout Japanese history. The novel is renowned as the world's first novel. It includes 54 chapters, so most series have 54 prints plus a title page. These prints essentially parody the original in order to make the ancient subject more appealing to a contemporary audience. Therefore, the artist represented the figures in contemporary clothing and placed them in a modern setting.

  • Thumbnail for Kabuki Actor at his Dressing Table
    Kabuki Actor at his Dressing Table by Unidentified artist, possibly Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)

    Woodblock print, surimono type, ink, colors, and embossing on paper. Surimono were limited edition, fine quality prints produced for a small, select group of clients, in this case, fans of the actor portrayed.

  • Thumbnail for Page showing the Kyoto Hachiman Shrine, from the book, Wakoku meisho kagami - A Mirror of Famous Sites of Japan
    Page showing the Kyoto Hachiman Shrine, from the book, Wakoku meisho kagami - A Mirror of Famous Sites of Japan by Hishikawa Moronobu (died 1694)

    Double page woodblock printed book illustration; ink and light colors (applied by hand) on paper. This small page from an important, VERY rare early printed book, by the founding father of Ukiyo-e printmaking, is a precursor to the types of books that in the 18th century became produced in great numbers and were in widespread circulation then. During the 18th century, travel (or armchair travels) became exceedingly popular. The description of the place, written from right to left above the illustration, shows how integral pictures were to printed texts. The placement of the text above the illustration was an innovation of Moronobu and is characteristic of his books.

  • Thumbnail for Pomegranates
    Pomegranates by Ito Wako (born 1945)

    Edition: 13/150. Mezzotint; ink and colors on paper.

  • Thumbnail for Stone and Sand
    Stone and Sand by Hagiwara Hideo (born 1913)

    Edition: 9/30. Woodblock print; ink, colors, and silver on paper. Hideo Hagiwara was born in Kofu City, Yamanishi Prefecture. Between 1921 and 1929 he lived in Korea and Manchuria. He studied at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, where he graduated at the Oil Painting Section in 1938. While still there he attended Un'ichi Hiratsuka's extracurricular woodblock printing course, and in the same year he became quality controller at the Takamizawa Woodblock Print Company. He was conscripted into the army in 1943. In 1945 he had lost his house, his atelier and nearly all his early works. Around 1950 he had sufficiently recovered to start painting again. At the same time he started making Sosaku hanga (creative prints), both figurative and abstract subjects. He is known as a constant innovator and he is generally considered one of the best post-WWII Sosaku hanga artists.

  • Thumbnail for Mura - 'Village' - figures working 2
    Mura - 'Village' - figures working 2 by Inagaki Nenjiro (1902-1963)

    Portfolio of 20 woodblock prints; ink and light colors on paper. Born Kyoto. Alt. name: Inagaki Nenjir_. Grad. 1922 Kyoto City School of Fine Arts and Crafts. Became a designer of stencil patterns for fine kimonos. Exhibited in craft divisions of Bunten and Kokugakai from 1941. Held several positions at Kyoto City College of Fine Arts. His work as a stencil-dyed fabric designer was designated an Intangible Cultural Property in 1962. In the 1950s he designed multicolor hanga which have the stylized quality of his textile designs but were printed from single woodblocks at Mikumo Mokuhansha in Kyoto. This company had been founded by Ishihara Tadao in January 1942. It still exists today. The prints in the OWU collection are characteristic of Inagaki's works of the 1950s that resemble his textile designs.

  • Thumbnail for Scene from the series: Story of Loyal, Prominent, and Faithful Samurai, act 4 (Ch?y? gishi roku dai yon)
    Scene from the series: Story of Loyal, Prominent, and Faithful Samurai, act 4 (Ch?y? gishi roku dai yon) by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)

    Woodblock print; ink and colors on paper. Signed: Ichisai Toyokuni Hitsu. Two round censor seals at the top of the picture used between18471848. Right: Yoshimura Gentaro; left: Muramatsu Yoshimura. This print is nice because its border has not been trimmed and the round censor seals are still intact above the top margin of the picture. The series portrays the most famous vendetta of samurai retainers in the Edo period, the Chushingura, or the tale of the 47 masterless samurai (ronin). On the snowy night of January 30, 1703, in an incident known as the Ako vendetta, forty-six samurai who had sworn an oath to revenge their master's needless death burst into the mansion of the man responsible for the death of their former master, Asano Naganori, the lord of Ako. They were led by Oishi Kuranosuke, Asano's chief advisor. Their intended victim, Kira Yoshinaka, was a powerful noble and an important retainer of the imperial household. After refusing the opportunity to die by his own hand, Kira was killed with the same dagger Asano had used to commit seppuku, and then beheaded. At dawn on the following morning the samurai surrendered themselves to the priests of a Buddhist temple to await their punishment. The vendetta served as the basis for what is without doubt the most famous and popular work of the Japanese Kabuki theater, Kanadehon Chushingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers: A Model for Emulation). During the Tokugawa era (1600-1868) there was a ban on the depiction in art or the dramatization on stage of current historical events using the actual names of the nobility involved. Therefore, the theatrical version of the Ako vendetta was set in the days of the fourteenth-century shogun Takauiji; Asano, Kira, and Oishi became Enya, Moronao, and Oboshi, and the setting of the play was changed from Edo to Kamakura. Act IV, depicted here, consists entirely of Enya's seppuku, the punishment ordered by the shogun for his attempt on Moronao's life. This scene, filled with quiet, yet terrible, passion, is one of the classical moments of kabuki theater. As the preparations for his suppuku are completed, Enya swears to "return to life again and again until my vengeance is accomplished." From an adjoining room Enya's retainers beg through the closed door to be allowed one last look at their master. In silence Enya, dressed in white, the traditional color of death, waits for Yuranosuke while he continues his preparations. A thick, white tatami mat is laid with branches of ceremonial herbs in each corner. Enya slides his outer-garment off on his shoulders and tucks the long ends firmly under his knees so that the tension of the fabric will cause him to fall face down. At a silent signal Rikiya enters bringing a short sword on a wooden stand. Finally, there is nothing else left to do; Enya gathers his composure, and in a swift motion takes up the sword and drives it into his stomach. Just then Yuranosuke enters and speaks in calm, almost fatherly tones, bidding Enya to die bravely. Gazing steadily into his chamberlain's face, Enya tells Yuranosuke that he must avenge his death using this very same sword, and with a last effort completes the act of ritual suicide.

  • Thumbnail for Mura - 'Village' - plants 1
    Mura - 'Village' - plants 1 by Inagaki Nenjir? (1902-1963)

    Portfolio of 20 woodblock prints; ink and light colors on paper. Born Kyoto. Alt. name: Inagaki Nenjiro. Graduated in 1922 Kyoto City School of Fine Arts and Crafts. Became a designer of stencil patterns for fine kimonos. Exhibited in craft divisions of Bunten and Kokugakai from 1941. Held several positions at Kyoto City College of Fine Arts. His work as a stencil-dyed fabric designer was designated an Intangible Cultural Property in 1962. In the 1950s he designed multicolor hanga which have the stylized quality of his textile designs but were printed from single woodblocks at Mikumo Mokuhansha in Kyoto. This company had been founded by Ishihara Tadao in January 1942. It still exists today. The prints in the OWU collection are characteristic of Inagaki's works of the 1950s that resemble his textile designs.

  • Thumbnail for Unknown - Japanese woodblock print
    Unknown - Japanese woodblock print by Yoshida Toshi (1911-1995)

    Edition: 117/150 Woodblock print; ink, colors, and silver on paper. Born in Tokyo in 1911, Toshi Yoshida was the eldest son of Hiroshi Yoshida. Under his father's influence, Toshi began to learn painting at age 3 and woodblock printing at age 13. From 1925-29 he studied oil painting at Taiheiyo Art School and in 1929 traveled with his father to India and Southeast Asia. In 1936 Toshi journeyed to China and Korea. In 1952-53 he visited the US and Europe where he exhibited works and lectured about woodblock prints. In 1954 he taught printmaking for one month at the Art Institute of Chicago and since that time has often traveled to the US, Canada, Mexico, Africa, Australia and Antarctica for sketching, exhibitions and lectures. For a few years after the war, he made prints of abstract subjects, but then reverted to prints of scenery and animals. In 1980, Toshi opened the Miasa Cultural Center in Nagano Prefecture where he taught students from many countries, including Carol Jessen and Karyn Young.

  • Thumbnail for Portrait of Thoreau
    Portrait of Thoreau by Matsubara Naoko (born 1937)

    Edition: 45/100. Woodblock print; ink on paper.This is a fine, interesting work by this woman artist, indicative of modern Japanese artist-intellectuals' interest in Western philosophers. Born in Tokushima, on the island of Shikoku, Matsubara Naoko grew up mostly in the city of Kyoto. Her father was one of the most senior Shinto priests in Japan, and her mother came from a very old Shinto family. After graduating from the Kyoto Academy of Fine Arts (now Kyoto Fine Arts University), she went to the United States as a Fulbright scholar, spending a year at the Carnegie Institute of Art (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, where she received her MFA.

  • Thumbnail for The Warrior Usui Matagoro Slaying the Giant White Monkey (Usui Matagor? Hida sanchu utsu dai saru)
    The Warrior Usui Matagoro Slaying the Giant White Monkey (Usui Matagor? Hida sanchu utsu dai saru) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)

    Woodblock print; ink, colors, and embossing on paper. From a group of prints featuring Japanese warriors. Publisher: Nishimuraya Yohachi. The image portrays an obscure, probably fictitious samurai-hero Usui Matagoro slaying a giant white monkey in the Hida mountain, apparently by order of his overlord, the warrior Minamoto (Kiso) Yoshinaka (1154-1184). This reference comes from a contemporary brochure about an annual festival in the town in Aichi (Kariya) that has a float of Matagoro slaying the monkey in it. The brochure identified Matagoro as one the four generals (shitenno) of Minamoto Yoshinaka, hero of the Heike monogatari. Curiously, standard, earlier and reliable sources list four others as Yoshinaka's generals. So it is unclear when the legend of Matagoro arose, though his presence in this print dates it to at least the early 19th century. Yoshinaka himself was a tragic hero immortalized in the Tales of the Heike, that described the figures on both sides of the battles that marked the most important turning point in Japanese history, the founding of the first shogunate (military dictatorship). Yoshinaka was killed in battle by his cousin Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1180), his rival for military control of Kyoto and the emperor. His defeat allowed Yoritomo to become Japan's first shogun in 1185. The twelfth-century struggles between the Taira and Minamoto clans mark a violent end to the long and largely peaceful Heian period (794-1185). The Minamoto or "Genji", were severely weakened in two "disturbances" known as the Hogen and Heiji era insurrections in the 1150s, power struggles at court. The Minamoto leaders were executed, but the lives of two young brothers, Yoritomo and Yoshitsune, were spared. For twenty years the Taira dominated the imperial court under the leadership of Kiyomori, encroaching on the traditional power the Fujiwara nobles wielded over the emperors. Different factions plotted against the Taira with little success until Yoritomo rose in revolt in 1180. Yoritomo, however, allowed the bulk of the fighting to be carried out by his relatives: Yoshinaka, Noriyori, and Yoshitune. The Taira were finally defeated at the naval battle at Dan-no-ura in 1185.

  • Thumbnail for Page from the book Toshisen ehon gogon zekku - Illustrated selection of poems of the Tang dynasty, poems of four verses, each verse of five words
    Page from the book Toshisen ehon gogon zekku - Illustrated selection of poems of the Tang dynasty, poems of four verses, each verse of five words by Illustrated by Tachibana Sekiho (active late 18th century)

    Double page woodblock printed book illustration; ink on paper. (The museum owns two additional pages from this book). Because the page has been separated from its book, there is no way to know which edition it came from. This is a good example that demonstrates the widespread and popular interest in ancient Chinese literature among sophisticated, well educated commoners (the readers of books such as these) in the Edo period. There exist several printed books with close variations on this title, including one illustrated by Hokusai. But this is clearly not the Hokusai volume.

  • Thumbnail for Page from an Unidentified Woodblock Book
    Page from an Unidentified Woodblock Book by Illustration in the style of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

    Double page woodblock printed book illustration; ink and color on paper. Depicts a courtier and attendant kneeling before a priest, who is unrolling a handscroll. Although aesthetically pleasing, the condition of this print is somewhat problematic (paper soiled). It is a good example of the type of illustrated books that were so popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries in Japan.

  • Thumbnail for Juggling
    Juggling by Miyagawa Shuntei (1873-1914)

    Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. From the series: Twenty-four Children's Games (Konodo Fuzoku)

  • Thumbnail for Mura - 'Village' - plants 2
    Mura - 'Village' - plants 2 by Inagaki Nenjiro (1902-1963)

    Portfolio of 20 woodblock prints; ink and light colors on paper. Born Kyoto. Alt. name: Inagaki Nenjiro. Graduated in 1922 Kyoto City School of Fine Arts and Crafts. Became a designer of stencil patterns for fine kimonos. Exhibited in craft divisions of Bunten and Kokugakai from 1941. Held several positions at Kyoto City College of Fine Arts. His work as a stencil-dyed fabric designer was designated an Intangible Cultural Property in 1962. In the 1950s he designed multicolor hanga which have the stylized quality of his textile designs but were printed from single woodblocks at Mikumo Mokuhansha in Kyoto. This company had been founded by Ishihara Tadao in January 1942. It still exists today. The prints in the OWU collection are characteristic of Inagaki's works of the 1950s that resemble his textile designs.

  • Thumbnail for Blindfold Game
    Blindfold Game by Miyagawa Shuntei (1873-1914)

    Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. from the series: Twenty-four Children's Games (Konodo Fuzoku). Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. Left side of print has been trimmed. "As little as fifty years ago the trend with collectors of Japanese art was to reject the woodcuts of the Meiji era (1868-1912) as being garish and unrefined. To be sure, the introduction of Western pigments and artistic styles (c. 1865) had created a dynamic change in Japanese art. Bold new colour patterns and equally revolutionary design concepts began to influence the art of the woodcut. Far from ruining traditional art forms, however, Meiji artists injected a vitality into the woodcut by amalgamating Japanese and Western forms. The great masters of this era -- Yoshitoshi, Chikanobu, Ginko, Miyagawa Shuntei and others -- thus created a number of beautiful images and contemporary scholarship now favourably compares their works with the art of earlier nineteenth century woodcut artists. The Tokyo artist, Miyagawa Shuntei, produced his finest work at the end of the nineteenth century. His two greatest series of woodcuts, Pictures of Customs and Flowers of the World of Pleasure, were both published in Tokyo in 1897. Shuntei's finest art was in the genre of bijin-ga (beautiful women); portrayals of beautiful women. In this regard, he is often regarded by scholars as a precursor to the woodcuts of the following generation of famous Shin hanga (new print) artists such as Goyo, Shinsui and (most notably) Kotondo." He was born in Aichi prefecture. Much like the rest of his generation of print artists, Shuntei worked as a book and newspaper illustrator. He is best known for his genre print subjects of women and children playing.

  • Thumbnail for Page from an unidentified book showing a Heian era court lady and child on a veranda
    Page from an unidentified book showing a Heian era court lady and child on a veranda

    Double page woodblock printed book illustration; ink and colors on paper. This book illustrates an unidentified courtly tale of the Heian era, possibly the Tale of Genji, in a conservative, Tosa-school style. It makes an interesting contrast to the illustration of the Tale of Genji, in a more contemporary Ukiyo-e style with bolder colors, by Utagawa Kunisada.

  • Thumbnail for Mura - 'Village'  - figures working 1
    Mura - 'Village' - figures working 1 by Inagaki Nenjir? (1902-1963)

    Portfolio of 20 woodblock prints; ink and light colors on paper. Born Kyoto. Alt. name: Inagaki Nenjiro. Graduated in 1922 Kyoto City School of Fine Arts and Crafts. Became a designer of stencil patterns for fine kimonos. Exhibited in craft divisions of Bunten and Kokugakai from 1941. Held several positions at Kyoto City College of Fine Arts. His work as a stencil-dyed fabric designer was designated an Intangible Cultural Property in 1962. In the 1950s he designed multicolor hanga which have the stylized quality of his textile designs but were printed from single woodblocks at Mikumo Mokuhansha in Kyoto. This company had been founded by Ishihara Tadao in January 1942. It still exists today. The prints in the OWU collection are characteristic of Inagaki's works of the 1950s that resemble his textile designs.

  • Thumbnail for Ladder
    Ladder by Kim Lim (1936-1997)

    Intaglio print on paper. British sculptor and printmaker of Chinese birth. She grew up in Singapore and at the age of 18 decided to go to London to study at Saint Martin’s School of Art (1954–6) where she took a particular interest in wood-carving; she then transferred to the Slade School of Art, where she concentrated on printmaking, graduating in 1960. Whilst at college she often travelled through Asia and Europe en route back to Singapore, with Indian and South-East Asian sculpture and spirituality making a great impact on her work. While Lim always acknowledged a debt to the work of Constantin Brancusi in her simplification and abstraction of forms, it is in her concern for the specific qualties of materials, as in her use of charred wood to create contrast, that the influence of Eastern spirituality and concepts of balance can be seen. In 1960 she married the painter and sculptor William Turnbull, settling in London but continuing to travel widely. In the 1960s and 1970s her sculptures were mainly carved from wood, using forms inspired by basic rhythmic forms and structures, with each element forming a balanced whole. Her prints from this time also explore these modulations, as in the etchings Set of Eight (1975; see 1995 exh. cat., pp. 24 and 28), which consist of simple patterns of blocks and lines.

  • Thumbnail for Matsunouch - 'within the pines' - English title: 'New Year's Week'
    Matsunouch - 'within the pines' - English title: 'New Year's Week' by Nishijima Katsuyuki (born 1945)

    Woodblock print; ink and colors on paper. The title is a reference to the first 15 days of the New Year when the kadomatsu (traditional Japanese pine tree new year decoration) is placed at the gate of houses and shops. Born in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Nishijima Katsuyuji studied woodblock printing at Mikumo publishing house in Kyoto 1964-1968. Exhibited with Kyoto Independents 1965-1970 and in solo and group shows. Experimented with stencil dyeing and printing 1969-1972. From 1972 focused on limited edition sosaku-hanga woodblocks taking subjects from old traditional buildings. Prints include a series Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kiso Kaido and Kyoto street scenes. This artist works in a conservative style that is popular among Western fans of nostalgic images of old Japan. He is one of the best artists alive today to create images in this genre.

  • Thumbnail for Mura - 'Village' - building 2
    Mura - 'Village' - building 2 by Inagaki Nenjiro (1902-1963)

    Portfolio of 20 woodblock prints; ink and light colors on paper. Born Kyoto. Alt. name: Inagaki Nenjiro. Graduated in 1922 Kyoto City School of Fine Arts and Crafts. Became a designer of stencil patterns for fine kimonos. Exhibited in craft divisions of Bunten and Kokugakai from 1941. Held several positions at Kyoto City College of Fine Arts. His work as a stencil-dyed fabric designer was designated an Intangible Cultural Property in 1962. In the 1950s he designed multicolor hanga which have the stylized quality of his textile designs but were printed from single woodblocks at Mikumo Mokuhansha in Kyoto. This company had been founded by Ishihara Tadao in January 1942. It still exists today. The prints in the OWU collection are characteristic of Inagaki's works of the 1950s that resemble his textile designs.

  • Thumbnail for Mura - 'Village' - building 1
    Mura - 'Village' - building 1 by Inagaki Nenjiro (1902-1963)

    Portfolio of 20 woodblock prints; ink and light colors on paper. Born Kyoto. Alt. name: Inagaki Nenjiro. Graduated in 1922 Kyoto City School of Fine Arts and Crafts. Became a designer of stencil patterns for fine kimonos. Exhibited in craft divisions of Bunten and Kokugakai from 1941. Held several positions at Kyoto City College of Fine Arts. His work as a stencil-dyed fabric designer was designated an Intangible Cultural Property in 1962. In the 1950s he designed multicolor hanga which have the stylized quality of his textile designs but were printed from single woodblocks at Mikumo Mokuhansha in Kyoto. This company had been founded by Ishihara Tadao in January 1942. It still exists today. The prints in the OWU collection are characteristic of Inagaki's works of the 1950s that resemble his textile designs.

  • Thumbnail for Blue Engraving
    Blue Engraving by Kim Lim (1936-1997)

    Intaglio print on paper. British sculptor and printmaker of Chinese birth. She grew up in Singapore and at the age of 18 decided to go to London to study at Saint Martin’s School of Art (1954–6) where she took a particular interest in wood-carving; she then transferred to the Slade School of Art, where she concentrated on printmaking, graduating in 1960. Whilst at college she often travelled through Asia and Europe en route back to Singapore, with Indian and South-East Asian sculpture and spirituality making a great impact on her work. While Lim always acknowledged a debt to the work of Constantin Brancusi in her simplification and abstraction of forms, it is in her concern for the specific qualties of materials, as in her use of charred wood to create contrast, that the influence of Eastern spirituality and concepts of balance can be seen. In 1960 she married the painter and sculptor William Turnbull, settling in London but continuing to travel widely. In the 1960s and 1970s her sculptures were mainly carved from wood, using forms inspired by basic rhythmic forms and structures, with each element forming a balanced whole. Her prints from this time also explore these modulations, as in the etchings Set of Eight (1975; see 1995 exh. cat., pp. 24 and 28), which consist of simple patterns of blocks and lines.