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Partners in Print

Partners in Print: Artistic Collaboration and the Ukiyo-e Market

Julie Nelson Davis
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Partners in Print
    Book Description:

    This compelling account of collaboration in the genre of ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) offers a new approach to understanding the production and reception of print culture in early modern Japan. It provides a corrective to the perception that the ukiyo-e tradition was the product of the creative talents of individual artists, revealing instead the many identities that made and disseminated printed work. Julie Nelson Davis demonstrates by way of examples from the later eighteenth century that this popular genre was the result of an exchange among publishers, designers, writers, carvers, printers, patrons, buyers, and readers. By recasting these works as examples of a network of commercial and artistic cooperation, she offers a nuanced view of the complexity of this tradition and expands our understanding of the dynamic processes of production, reception, and intention in floating world print culture.

    Four case studies give evidence of what constituted modes of collaboration among artistic producers in the period. In each case Davis explores a different configuration of collaboration: that between a teacher and a student, two painters and their publishers, a designer and a publisher, and a writer and an illustrator. Each investigates a mode of partnership through a single work: a specially commissioned print, a lavishly illustrated album, a printed handscroll, and an inexpensive illustrated novel. These case studies explore the diversity of printed things in the period ranging from expensive works made for a select circle of connoisseurs to those meant to be sold at a modest price to a large audience. They take up familiar subjects from the floating world-connoisseurship, beauty, sex, and humor-and explore multiple dimensions of inquiry vital to that dynamic culture: the status of art, the evaluation of beauty, the representation of sexuality, and the tension between mind and body.

    Where earlier studies of woodblock prints have tended to focus on the individual artist,Partners in Printtakes the subject a major step forward to a richer picture of the creative process. Placing these works in their period context not only reveals an aesthetic network responsive to and shaped by the desires of consumers in a specific place and time, but also contributes to a larger discussion about the role of art and the place of the material text in the early modern world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-5440-9
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. Introduction: The Floating World and Its Artistic Networks
    (pp. 1-19)

    UKIYO-E, OR THE “PICTURES OF the floating world,” were the visual and textual manifestation of the interests, desires, and expressions of a complex social network in Tokugawa-period Japan (1603–1868). Whether intended for the commercial market or for private circulation, these goods are evidence of a lively intellectual and economic exchange between publishers, designers, writers, carvers, printers, imitators, patrons, buyers, and their audiences. These products of the floating world retain traces of this interaction. Taking this as its main proposition, this book makes a close analysis of four printed objects of the later eighteenth century where this exchange is evidenced...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Teaching the Art of Painting through Print: A Master Painter, His Students, and the Illustrated Book
    (pp. 20-60)

    THE LION PAUSES, SCRATCHES HIS ear, and shakes the peony he holds in his mouth (figure 1.1). As he turns toward us, he seems to take us and everything before him in his gaze. A young boy, frightened by the grimacing lion, runs to the comforting arms of a seated woman. She and an older child seem to offer the boy this reassurance: it is only a painted lion, decorating the flat surface of the standing screen. The picture tells a familiar narrative of the power of images and of the painter’s prowess: the lion on the screen, it asserts,...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Picturing Beauties: Print Designers, Publishers, and a Mirror of the Yoshiwara
    (pp. 61-107)

    FOUR WELL-DRESSED WOMEN ARE SEATED in a well-appointed interior (figure 2.1). One pauses in her reading and looks up, gesturing, while her companions contemplate her remarks. To their right, the sliding door is open to the veranda, showing a pottedAdonisplant, and in the garden beyond, the branches of a blossoming plum tree (the subtle pink of the printed bloom now faded to a pale tint). Behind them, an arrangement of flowering plum and camellia ornaments the alcove, while a design of iris and water plantain decorates the sliding doors. Expensive, well-made objects, including a koto (zither), a lacquer...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Unrolling Pictures for the Erotic Imagination: A Designer, His Publisher, and The Scroll of the Sleeve
    (pp. 108-142)

    A SMALL HANDSCROLL IS SET on the table. Untying its silken cords and slowly unrolling the scroll from right to left, the viewer opens the work and reads the first lines of the frontispiece (figure 3.1):

    To begin, yin and yang were formed from the midst of chaos. The heavenly gods of the seventh generation, the deities Izanagi and Izanami, coupled together upon the floating bridge of heaven. He said, “What rapture to meet by chance such a beautiful girl,” and this was the beginning of desire.¹

    The viewer, tempted by the subject described in these lines and impatient to...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Making Dogma into Comedy: A Writer and an Illustrator Send Up Religion in a Popular Book
    (pp. 143-184)

    IN THE THREE PRECEDING CHAPTERS how floating world partnerships and collaborative networks produced works of high technical standard for discriminating audiences was at the center of discussion. Through these case studies I have argued that the system of connoisseurship in use made the material object—as well as that which it represented—the object of an evaluative gaze. The talents of all contributors were melded together in the purpose of creating an illusion of seeing, as though that which was shown was representative of something observed by the artists and put into print for the benefit of the viewers. These...

  10. Conclusion: Reconsidering Collaboration and Ukiyo Art Worlds
    (pp. 185-194)

    IN THE PRECEDING FOUR CHAPTERS, we have encountered issues related to the collaborative processes but at the same time have explored issues of agency, authorship, and reception, concerns shared by the publishers, designers, and writers (as well as those that served as censors). A final example compellingly demonstrates how commercial printing reified these values. In 1802 Shikitei Sanba (1776–1822) published akibyōshirecounting the incredible story of “Princess Poton-Her-Head,” a young woman unfortunate enough to have a hat-shaped ceramic vessel temporarily affixed to her head.¹ The story line relates her trials and tribulations to humorous effect in a narrative...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 195-222)
    (pp. 223-234)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 235-244)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-247)