For a long time, we have admired and collected works from Asia. Since our website has become so large and eclectic, it seems time recognize the great tradition of wood block prints, and the enormous influence of Asian art on Western artists.
What better place to start than this beautiful series of woodblock botanical prints by Tanigami Konan (1879-1928). The work was to celebrate the seasons, so there are exuberant selections from all the seasons. It is called Seiyo Soka Zofu, or a Pictorial Book of Western Flowers and was very carefully researched as it includes a huge variety of western flowers. Please note that these prints are all original authentic woodblock prints. Each one measures approximately 14 ½ inches by 10 ½ inches and is on creamy paper with the central fold as issued, with a few being slightly more toned, or with reinforcement down center fold on the back of the print.
The publication of these prints in 1917 was a very interesting time in Japanese print making, when the old traditional ways of wood block printing were giving way to new western print making technologies such as lithography & photo mechanical printing.
Artists and printers in Japan were losing their living due to the changes & decided to pursue the Western market, reformulating their art in such a way that it would appeal to the Western eye and taste. Heavily influenced by the Impressionist movement in France, they incorporated light and shade into their art along with Western concepts of perspective.
This new movement, named Shin Hanga or “new prints” was started by artists, but owes much of its success to the renowned publisher, Shozaburo Watanabe (1885-1962), a keen businessman who initially used Western artists living in Japan to understand the art that appealed to the Western eye.
Shin Hanga was immediately successful under the shrewd tutelage of this astute businessman & flourished even through the great Kanto earthquake of 1923, in which the Wantanabe print shop and woodblocks were totally destroyed and over 140,000 people lost their lives. World War II brought a halt to this flourishing business for a while, but the American occupation renewed the interest in these beautiful prints and many were sent home by the American troops and Shin Hanga was introduced to American homes nationwide.
The topics of the Shin Hanga movement are universally appealing: botanicals, landscapes, birds, animals and beautiful people, so we are delighted to add them to our offerings. These prints are particularly vivid and lush, with extravagant displays of all the very best flowers - tulips, lilies, daffodils, crocus, iris and all the numerous splendors of the botanical world. It is definitely the abundant style of the West versus the more restrained and elegant style of the East. In Japan, an arrangement of five flowers and a few leaves is considered very satisfactory, whereas this would certainly be viewed as a little sparse by most of us!