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  • Thumbnail for Chairman Mao
    Chairman Mao

    Lifesize print of Chairman Mao Zedong. Red inscription along the bottom says "We wish Chairman Mao long life". Righthand side says "Respectfully donated by a Red Guard organization".

  • Thumbnail for The peak of Satta Pass near Yui station
    The peak of Satta Pass near Yui station by Utagawa Hiroshige

    From the first Tokaido series, Hoeido Tokaido edition. One of the most well known 19th century ukiyo-e artists, famous for his landscape views, particularly his images of the Tokaido. As the busiest highway in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Tokaido offered numerous chances to experience a variety of social classes and day-to-day activities. Numerous images of this highway were created during the Edo period, some in singular views and others in series, the most famous of which are Hiroshige’s numerous editions. The images depicted the commercial activity along the road and famous views seen on the journey. Hiroshige, in particular, also chose many of the views based on varying times of year and the weather conditions that offered an ever-changing impression of the landscape. Greatly influenced by his teacher Utagawa Toyoharu, Hiroshige often employed perspective views rather than the more traditional stacked and flattened views of the landscape found in the Kano school of painting. This slightly more western view helps to explain his popularity among 19th century artists in Europe. In this image, near station number sixteen, Hiroshige shows travelers about to get a majestic view of Mt. Fuji. Long a traditional subject matter in Kano style painting, views of Mt. Fuji were charged with national pride and an important sense of place to the Japanese. The artist combines this ancient tradition with a far more popular and temporal sense of place.

  • Thumbnail for Two women with infant
    Two women with infant by Utamaro Kitagawa

    The dominant ukiyo-e artist of the late 18th century, Utamaro is as famous for his legendary life as for his unsurpassed images of courtesans and famous beauties of his day. Bijin-ga (images of beauties) might be of actual contemporary and historic women or of an idealized type of beauty specific to a time and region. Courtesans in particular were usually depicted in the latest and most elaborate fashions of the day. After an increasing number of censorship laws were passed to limit the production of prints of famous courtesans, thought to corrupt the morals of the citizens of Japan, many artists turned to domestic images of mothers and daughters or women with servants and generalized pictures of the latest fashions in order to satisfy the demand for bijin-ga and skirt the laws.

  • Thumbnail for Woman wearing a fashionable kimono: The Chrysanthemum Festival
    Woman wearing a fashionable kimono: The Chrysanthemum Festival by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

    The son of a silk dyer, Utagawa Kuniyoshi was apprenticed to the printmaker Utagawa Toyokuni I. whose other pupils included Toyoshige and Kunisada. Unlike his master, who specialized in actor portraits, Kuniyoshi excelled in depicting historical scenes and events along with celebrated warriors. Like many of his contemporaries, the artist experimented widely, producing prints of everything from landscapes to erotica. Kuniyoshi’s first published work was a set of book illustrations released in 1814, although his name remained obscure for several years until his publication of a print series depicting 75 heroes from Japanese lore and legend. When prints of actors and beautiful women (bijin-ga) were banned by the Japanese government in 1842, the Japanese middle class became enthusiastic supporters of Kuniyoshi’s seemingly inoffensive historical prints. In 1843, the artist released a satirical triptych print criticizing the Shogun, launching an official investigation that resulted in the destruction of Kuniyoshi’s woodblocks and unsold prints, as well as an official censure. The print, however, remained popular with the middle class. Bijin-ga (images of beauties) might be of actual contemporary and historic women or of an idealized type of beauty specific to a time and region. Courtesans in particular were usually depicted in the latest and most elaborate fashions of the day. After restrictive censorship laws were passed in the 1840s, many artists turned to generalized pictures of the latest fashions and more domestic settings for their images of beauties.

  • Thumbnail for The Courtesan Hanamurasaki of Tamaya Brothel and her Kamuro (girl attendant)
    The Courtesan Hanamurasaki of Tamaya Brothel and her Kamuro (girl attendant) by unknown

    Bijin-ga (images of beauties) might be of actual contemporary and historic women or of an idealized type of beauty specific to a time and region. Courtesans in particular were usually depicted in the latest and most elaborate fashions of the day. After restrictive censorship laws were passed in the 1840s, many artists turned to generalized pictures of the latest fashions and more domestic settings for their images of beauties.

  • Thumbnail for Uki-e: The interior of the Ichimura-za Theater, Edo
    Uki-e: The interior of the Ichimura-za Theater, Edo by Utagawa Toyoharu

    Utagawa Toyharu was the founder of the Utagawa school of ukiyo-e painting and printmaking. He was born in Kyoto and studied Kano school painting under Tsuruzawa Tangei. Upon moving to Edo in the 1760s he studied with Shigenaga and Sekien and began releasing his own work shortly thereafter. In 1763 he became a printmaker in the ukiyo-e tradition. After establishing himself as a foremost master of printmaking, Toyoharu began to take pupils, among them Toyohiro and Toyokuni, who assumed Toyoharu’s title after his death. Toyoharu’s output was diverse. He is probably best-known for creating the innovative uki-e or perspective print, which was a melding of Japanese and Western art tastes for composition and design. He created several landscape print series in the uki-e manner but he also worked within traditional subject matters and designs. The perspective print illustrates the influence of western images as they made there way into Japan. While contrary to traditional Japanese depictions of space, perspective was particularly appropriate to depictions of the floating world. Attending the Japanese theater, particularly Kabuki, was a popular pastime in the theater quarters of Edo and other large cities. Many plays depicted well-known historical and literary events from Japan’s past, while others featured narratives of a particularly modern bent. The uki-e print was able to capture the bustle and din of the Kabuki theater and the pleasure quarters in which they were located.

  • Thumbnail for The Tenryu River near Mitsuke station
    The Tenryu River near Mitsuke station by Utagawa Hiroshige

    From the first Tokaido series, Hoeido Tokaido edition. One of the most well-known 19th century ukiyo-e artists, famous for his landscape views, particularly his images of the Tokaido. As the busiest highway in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Tokaido offered numerous chances to experience a variety of social classes and day-to-day activities. Numerous images of this highway were created during the Edo period, some in singular views and others in series, the most famous of which are Hiroshige’s numerous editions. The images depicted the commercial activity along the road and famous views seen on the journey. Hiroshige, in particular, also chose many of the views based on varying times of year and the weather conditions that offered an ever-changing impression of the landscape. Greatly influenced by his teacher Utagawa Toyoharu, Hiroshige often employed perspective views rather than the more traditional stacked and flattened views of the landscape found in the Kano school of painting. This slightly more western view helps to explain his popularity among 19th century artists in Europe. This was near station number twenty-eight.

  • Thumbnail for Kana-dehon Chushingura Act III: Scene at the Palace in Kamakura
    Kana-dehon Chushingura Act III: Scene at the Palace in Kamakura by Keisei Eisen

    From the Kanadehon Chushingura (Model of the Kana Syllabury: the Forty-seven Loyal Retainers) series. Keisei Eisen was born in Edo, the son of a calligraphy artist. He was apprenticed to Kikugawa Eizan and studied traditional painting before becoming a printmaker. Throughout his career, Eisen’s work was productive and varied. Book illustrations and prints were his first commissioned works. Early on, he achieved lasting fame for his bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women), and both contributed to and edited the Ukiyo-e ruiko (History of Prints of the Floating World) one of the few surviving sources of information-rich material on printmaking art and artists in Japan. At times, he struck partnerships with other artists of his age, such as his collaboration with Hiroshige, which resulted in a series of landscape prints entitled The Sixty-nine Stations on the Kiso Highway. Eisen also released many surimono (privately issued prints), shunga (erotic prints), and some landscape pieces. In addition to his career as a printmaker, Eisen pursued other sources of income. A self-described hard-drinker who humbly titled his version of Japanese print history Mumeio zhuihitsu (Essays by a Nameless Old Man), Eisen was also the manager and proprietor of a brothel for a time. Today, however he is most famous for his portrayals of the beauties of old Japan. Kana-dehon Chushingura (Model of the Kana Syllabury: the Forty-seven Loyal Retainers) was a popular and frequently performed Kabuki play in the late 18th and early 19th century in Edo. Based on actual historical events from 1701 – 1703, the play tells of forty-seven ronin (samurai without a lord) who seek revenge for the unjust death of their leader Enya-Hangan. Enya-hangan draws his sword in reaction to the insults of Moronao, a capital offence resulting in a death sentence.

  • Thumbnail for Mirrors of actors in fanciful transformations
    Mirrors of actors in fanciful transformations by Utagawa Toyokuni I

    From theYakusha Mitate Kagami (Mirrors of Actors in Fanciful Transformations) series. A student of Toyoharu, Toyokuni became the head of the Utagawa school after his master’s death. At eighteen the artist published his first works, a series of illustrations of Japanese folk tales and thereafter he devoted much of his early career to the creation of bijin-ga. He achieved the greatest renown, however, for actor prints in which he was one of the first to show the full bodies and the costumes of his subjects. Like his contemporary Kitagawa Utamaro, Toyokuni was punished for the content of some of his prints, at one point being sentenced to fifty days in hand-shackles for his series Ehon Taiheki (The Taihei Romance Illustrated). By the 1820s Toyokuni’s name had become synonymous with fine prints of actors and their roles. Often actors would be depicted in roles which they had never performed as artists sought to create an imaginative scenario. This mitate was a playful connection which also allowed artists to show numerous actors in a single image. This game of playful doubling and imagination was also frequently employed in a variety of bijin-ga.

  • Thumbnail for Street Drama, full view
    Street Drama, full view by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

    Horizontal Japanese Ukiyo-e print; two panels from probable triptych; black and polychrome woodblock print on paper; various seals of Kuniyoshi, including “Ichiyosai†(a style name of Kuniyoshi). Artist is known for his depictions of heroic episodes in Japanese history. In his later work he tended to have a taste for the bizarre and the ghoulish. His work is influenced by European models, and in this work, the background has some degree of vanishing-point perspective. The works of Kuniyoshi are collected by many museums around the world, including Metropolitan of New York, Boston, San Francisco, Cleveland, The British Museum London, and the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City.

  • Thumbnail for Lake Biwa
    Lake Biwa by Shoda Koho

    One of two prints from the Hasegawa series, and in fact represent one of the aspects unique to the woodblock print process. Using exactly the same blocks, but inking them with different sets of colors, the printers were able to produce visions of the same scene at different times of day. Both prints feature a boat setting off with passenger and boatman (or woman, given the hair length) in the foreground, the Ukimido at Katata, on Lake Biwa, in the background, and a pine branch silhouetted above. This one shows a dawn of browns and grays, no stars, and no touches of red—the lanterns have gone out as the sun prepares to rise.

  • Thumbnail for Rainy Night at Kudan Hill, front view
    Rainy Night at Kudan Hill, front view by Kobayashi Eijir?

    From the Hasegawa series. Gray atmosphere pierced by the lighthouse above the slope, and lanterns carried by pedestrians and rickshaw drivers.

  • Thumbnail for After Hiroshige, front view stage 16
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 16 by unknown

    One of nineteen prints which illustrate the process of making a multi-block multicolor woodblock print.The print reproduced is the view of Asakusa Kinryuzan (Asakusa Kannon Temple) from Ando Hiroshige’s Toto yukimi hakkei (Eight Views of Snow in the Eastern Capital).

  • Thumbnail for After Hiroshige, front view stage 19
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 19 by unknown

    One of nineteen prints which illustrate the process of making a multi-block multicolor woodblock print.The print reproduced is the view of Asakusa Kinryuzan (Asakusa Kannon Temple) from Ando Hiroshige’s Toto yukimi hakkei (Eight Views of Snow in the Eastern Capital).

  • Thumbnail for After Hiroshige, front view stage 18
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 18 by unknown

    One of nineteen prints which illustrate the process of making a multi-block multicolor woodblock print.The print reproduced is the view of Asakusa Kinryuzan (Asakusa Kannon Temple) from Ando Hiroshige’s Toto yukimi hakkei (Eight Views of Snow in the Eastern Capital).

  • Thumbnail for Hakone from Fifty-three Famous Places (Gojûsan tsugi meishozue)
    Hakone from Fifty-three Famous Places (Gojûsan tsugi meishozue) by Utagawa (Andô) Hiroshige

    Woodblock print. 13¾" x 9". Paper was issued in the Tokugawa Period (1615-1868) in standard sizes, most prints being in the oban format of 15 x10. The smaller size of this print thus indicates cutting. Condition good with some slight damage and staining in center of the print. Professor Mandancy’s letter identifies the work as one of the Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaidô (Tokaidô gojûsan no uchi), that is the set of 1833-34. Actually the print is from the 1855 set, as properly noted in her original list. The first step in making an Ukiyo-e woodblock print was an artist (eshi) painted a composition in ink on paper. The sketch (or later a copy) was pasted down on a plank of wood (usually cherry) and cut away to create the key or outline block. A separate person from the artist, called the cutter (hori), did the carving. A third person -- the rubber (suri) -- took the carved block and, placing it face up, moistened the printing surfaces by quickly brushing on water and glue. Color and ink were then applied by hand and pre-moistened paper placed onto the wet surface. The rubber then took the print by rubbing from behind with a baren (pad of rope covered by bamboo). It is usually presumed that the key block was used to make the patterns for the color blocks. In old views of Ukiyo-e, the key block, being closest to the sketch by the hand of the artist, was considered the most important. Authenticity, therefore, was mostly a matter of comparing lines in a questioned print to those in published, established, or otherwise accepted examples. If there was a match, the print was “genuine,†and often labeled as such on a tag on the back. The print of Hakone is, moreover, very useful for teaching how to look at lines in Ukiyo-e because those forming the border around the image show gaps and are thin, indicating that the key block was old and worn when the print was taken. The lines in Shinagawa are stronger, an important point in determining the work’s better condition.More interestingly, there is a worn area in the right hand corner of Hakone, where the printed line appears to have been scraped off and then drawn back in. Such repairs are common in Ukiyo-e and a much more obvious example is in the print of Shirasuka in the Union College Collection, by the same artist and from the same series. Shirasuka clearly has been repaired. For instance, there is a hole in its lower half of the print that has been filled in and colored to match the surrounding areas. In the lower right hand corner of Shirasuka, there is a place where the line has been obviously scraped off and then redrawn.

  • Thumbnail for Vielle Ainu, Chikabumi, Hokkaido, Japan
    Vielle Ainu, Chikabumi, Hokkaido, Japan by Paul Jacoulet (1896-1960)

    Color woodblock print, 15-1/2 x 11-3/4". One of a pair of prints of Old Ainu Woman and Old Ainu Man. Both have owl-shaped seals. Both appear to be printed on mica-flecked paper, which adds a subtle richness to the print. Both depict their subjects from the waist up.

  • Thumbnail for Ukiyo-e print of a beautiful woman
    Ukiyo-e print of a beautiful woman by Utagawa (Andô) Hiroshige

    Woman struggling to open an umbrella.

  • Thumbnail for 53 Stations of the Tokaido - Sakanoshita, Station 49
    53 Stations of the Tokaido - Sakanoshita, Station 49 by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

    Color woodblock, 7 X 9 1/4 inches, ink and color on paper. Large white mountain range with travelers looking out appreciating the view. Sakanoshita was a dangerous part of the highway due to bandits. Hiroshige nevertheless focuses on the scenery and the enjoyment of the pilgrim travelers.

  • Thumbnail for 53 Stations of the Tokaido: Hakone - Station 11
    53 Stations of the Tokaido: Hakone - Station 11 by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

    Color woodblock, 7 X 9 1/4 inches, ink and color on paper. Burning pink flames between grey mountains as porters travel along the narrow and steep mountain pass at Hakone, near Lake Ashinoko. Hiroshige captured the moment when porters struggle to carry their feudal retainers in sedan chairs as darkness nears.

  • Thumbnail for 53 Stations of the Tokaido: Kakegawa, Station 27
    53 Stations of the Tokaido: Kakegawa, Station 27 by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

    Color woodblock, 7 X 9 1/4 inches, ink and color on paper. Hiroshige highlights pilgrims, Buddhist monks, and worshipers as they cross the bridge toward the torii entrance to a temple.

  • Thumbnail for Nepal Prayer Flag
    Nepal Prayer Flag

    Entire work, 24 inch square, Image is 20 X 13 inches, printed on cotton.

  • Thumbnail for Amitabha Dharani Sutra - end of scroll
    Amitabha Dharani Sutra - end of scroll

    On the fiftieth anniversary of his graduation, Charles R. Bennett ('07) gifted this woodblock-printed, illustrated Buddhist text to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Dating to the year 975, the Amitabha Sutra is probably the earliest printed object in the college's collection. Consider that the world's earliest dated printed book is the Buddhist Diamond Sutra of 868 (now in the British Library) and that the Gutenberg Bible hails from the mid-1400s. Mr. Bennett, who lived and worked in China for two decades after graduating, remarked that the sutra was recovered from a brick of a pagoda in the city of Hangzhou. Indeed , on September 25, 1924, the famous Leifeng ("Thunder Peak") Pagoda collapsed. Erected by a regional king, the Leifeng Pagoda stood on the southern bank of the scenic West Lake for nearly a millenium. In 2000-01, a team of excavators revealed an underground chamber filled with gilt silver and bronze sculptures along with artifacts of stone and jade. In addition, the excavation confirmed the presence of bricks with cylindrical cavities that once held printed sutras. Bowdoin's sutra, not quite 3 inches high but almost seven feet long, is currently mounted as a handscroll. Its condition attests to its age, but as we may still distinguish from right to left a dedication, an illustration, and a sutra text. The dedication tells us that the king, Wang Qianchu, commissioned 84,000 copies of this sutra to be placed in the pagoda in the 8th month of the year 975. The illustration shows two distinct moments. At right a worshipper kneels at an altar table placed before a holy triad comprised of a seated Buddhist deity and a pair of monks. At left, the deity appears to a beseeching worshipper. Radiant jewels hang from above, fragrant flowers rain down, and a splendid stupa is placed at the center, giving the scene a sacred air. Following the illustration, the text records a story of how Buddha once restored a crumbling pagoda. It seems likely that by placing many copies of this sutra in Leifeng Pagoda, the king could ensure the building's continued existence. From a text drafted for a Bowdoin College Museum of Art newsletter by De-nin D. Lee. The entire work measures approximately 3" x 7'. Woodblock-printed, illustrated Buddhist text. To view other images related to this work, click on related record below.

  • Thumbnail for 53 Stages of the Tokaido
    53 Stages of the Tokaido by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1855)

    Shirasuga, the Slope at Shiomi (Shirasuga, Shiomizaka zu) from the series Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido Road (Tôkaidô gojûsan tsugi no uchi). This famous set of color woodblock prints appeared between 1833-34 and was published by Hôeidô and Senkakudô. Good condition.

  • Thumbnail for Kitchen Gods
    Kitchen Gods

    15-1/8" x 19-7/7". Popular print, woodcut on red paper. The gods Can Gung and Can Ma.