Chikanobu (1838 – 1912) Jidai kagami (A mirror of the ages): The Bunsei era (1818 – 1830); Upper Inset: Dancer and people in front of a sign for nishiki-e, 1897
The photograph doesn’t do any justice at all to this piece which is just such a lovely print. A nishiki-e is a woodblock print: it is the little square arrangement to the right of the inset which is the advertising sign, and Chikanobu has chosen this to symbolise the era when woodblock prints became the dominant visual culture, and where the subjects and discrete commentaries became in many ways the only language of dissent… or at least a shared language of defiance, of a militant middle class against a decadent and doomed aristocracy.
Woodblock prints were produced in huge numbers, mainly of kabuki actors or scenes from the kabuki theatre. Kabuki held the same fascination and fanatical devotion then as Hollywood movies do on western audiences today. Both the theatre and the woodblock artists were subject to intense scrutiny and both their private and public lives were likely to be constrained by an anxious police state.
The woodblock prints of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are some of the truly great pieces of art of their age. They are in museums in every major city in the world. Exhibitions of woodblock prints create large visitor numbers and the fact is that these same prints by Kuniyoshi (or Chikanobu as above) that fill coffee table books, metro posters and exhibitions are available to buy for as little as a high quality giclee reproduction of the the original. Ironically, a framed reproduction of a Hirosada print such as the one below, is £30 more expensive than the Toshidama Gallery is selling the original, matted in a conservation window mount!
By joining our gallery mailing list you will receive discounts on prints of a minimum of 10% and twice a year, reductions of up to 50%. The Toshidama Gallery is committed to increasing the profile, the awareness and the understanding of this outstanding and under appreciated art-form. Like those dancing shoppers in front of a woodblock print shop, pictured at the top of this post, you too could be enjoying museum quality art in your home for less than the cost of a reproduction. Newsletter subscribers receive only ten emails a year with discount vouchers and invitations to online ‘private views’, so do please sign up to our Newsletter on our gallery contact page.