Japanese print makers of the 18th and 19th century

This e-book includes the catalogue of Japanese prints on loan for an exhibition held at the Japan Society of New York in April-May 1911.  The accompanying lecture by Frederick Gookin was the opening event of that exhibition.

I’ve selected three of the prints in this informative work together with excerpts relating to each of the artists.

Japanese Color Prints

Primarily the charm of the Ukiyoé colour-prints is due to the fact that the leading masters of the school were artists of exceptional power. It is also due to the fact that most of them made print-designing their chief occupation, to which they devoted their thought, time, and skill, and that with rare exceptions they were less distinguished as painters.

Harunobu - Young Woman before Torii

The name of Suzuki Harunobu is familiar to every admirer of Japanese prints. It is in large measure to his genius that the development of full-colour printing is due. He was not only the first artist to make use of the new process, but he took advantage of it to bring out prints of a novel type. Very dainty and graceful these were, and in the poetic allusions or quiet humour with which they were charged, and in the quality of the brush-strokes with which the drawings were executed, they made a direct appeal to men of taste. Success was instantaneous. By the year 1765 Harunobu had come to the front and distanced all competitors for popular favour. The serenity and compelling charm of his compositions brought him wide fame. Realizing the possibilities that now lay before him, he proudly exclaimed, “Why should I degrade myself by the delineation of actors?” His ambition, he said, was to become “the true successor of the painters in the department of printing”; that is to say, to design prints that should be worthy substitutes for paintings. Instead of restricting himself to a few primary or secondary hues and the variations resulting from their superposition, he mixed his colours to get the precise tint desired, and he used as many colour-blocks as were needed for the effects at which he aimed. The Yedo-yé, or Yedo pictures, as the prints had been called from the fact that they were produced only at the eastern capital, were now denominated nishiki-yé, or brocade pictures, from the number of colours woven together in them. To the printing itself, the charging of the blocks with colour, the character and quality of the pigments and of the paper used, Harunobu gave careful attention, and these things were greatly improved as a result of his experiments.

FujiHokusai - Fuji

Best known for this image (via Wikipedia) – Great Wave off Kanagawa – created in 1820, Katsushika Hokusai was a master of wood block printing.


Godkin describes his work in the lecture:

Either Hokusai or Hiroshige might well engage our attention for an entire evening. Both were extraordinarily prolific; Hokusai was the more versatile and has the wider reputation. Both are among the greatest landscape artists the world has ever known. Their numerous prints of landscapes are a revelation of the possibilities of originality in composition and variety of interest in this field. Unless one has studied these prints in fine examples, it is impossible to realize how great is their merit. This is true of all the prints, but particularly true of Hiroshige’s. Between the best impressions and the very good ones the difference is really astonishing. But the best are so extremely rare as to make it probable that because of the difficulty and the cost of printing, very few of them were issued—the publishers finding cheaper editions more profitable.

KiyonagaHoliday Group

All, however, were surpassed a few years later by Kiyonaga, the last great artist of the Torii line and the culminating figure in the history of the Popular School. He conquered by the rugged strength and marvellous quality of his brush-strokes, by the richness of his colouring and the ripe mastery he displayed over all the resources of his craft. But also he created a new type of design—that which found expression in the great diptychs and triptychs that stand as the triumphs of colour-printing. At the height of his power his influence over his contemporaries was so great that, without exception, the younger men among them copied his style as closely as they could.

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at http://www.gutenberg.org/license

what ho, sport – life at Oxford University in 1894

It was certainly a man’s world (and an extremely elite one) at Oxford University as described by A D Godley in his book Aspects of Modern Oxford published in 1894 by Seeley & Co Ltd.

The plates in the book were produced by five artists.  They illustrate all aspects of a student’s life, in particular participation in a wide variety of sports including tennis, rowing, cricket and golf.  There was swimming too. The area called Parson’s Pleasure (see image 3 in this post) was a nude bathing area in the University Parks – men only, of course.  The selected images are by Lancelot  or Launcelot Speed, an illustrator of fiction and fairy tale books.  The picture of the rowers waiting for the coxswain begs for a caption competition!

For your interest, here’s a link to the history of women at Oxford (who were admitted as full students in 1920). It includes a list of some of the University’s more well-known graduates.

Lawn Tennis at Oxford - Launcelot Speed Waiting for the Cox - Launcelot Speed Parson's Pleasure - Launcelot Speed Cricket in the Parks - Launcelot Speed

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at http://www.gutenberg.org/license.

the art of the illuminated address

Illuminated addresses were once important components of a celebration of achievement.  They were generally very ornate and often included elements of the person’s history in the medley of images.

National Museum of Australia

Today the art of the illuminated address has all but vanished. In the mid to late 19th, and early 20th century, they were a popular way to thank prominent individuals for their contribution to organisations.

The artistry that went in to these addresses ranged from the fairly amateur production to highly sophisticated illustration techniques and calligraphy. They were, at their best, an art form in themselves.

Presentations often made the local news.

Australian Town and Country Journal – 1 April 1871

illuminated address Morpeth

Sydney Morning Herald – 18 August 1894

Balmain Rowing Club

They also provided opportunities for sycophancy.

South Australian Advertiser – 18 March 1874

Fairfax illuminated address

Here are some examples.

State Library of Victoria (out of copyright) – Goldsworthy and Davey.

download (7)

State Library of Victoria (out of copyright) – Sands & McDougall Limited

download (8)

John Oxley Library – State Library of Queensland (out of copyright)

Part of an illuminated address to the Chief Commissioner of Stamps on his resignation 1902

come in spinner – the game of two-up

Royal Australian Mint - two-up kip and pennies

C J Dennis 
- excerpt from The Sentimental Bloke HT Perry Middlemiss
Image of two-up kip and pennies - Royal Australian Mint


"Ow are yeh on a little gamble, Kid?" sez Ginger Mick.  
"Lars' night I'm on four quid.
Come 'round an' try yer luck at Steeny's school. 
"No," sez me conscience. Then I thinks, 
'Why not? An buy 'er presents if I wins a pot? 

A blazin' fool I wus. Fer 'arf a mo' I 'as a fight; 
Then conscience skies the wipe ... Sez I "Orright."  
.... Ten minutes later I was back once more, 
Kip in me 'and, on Steeny Isaac's floor.
Me luck was in an' I wus 'eadin good.
Yes, back agen amongst the same old crew! 
An' orl the time down in me 'eart I knew I never should.

 ... Nex' thing I knows it's after two o'clock - - 
Two in the morning! An' I've done me block!
"Wot odds?" I thinks. "I'm in fer it orright."

An' so I stops an' gambles orl the night; 
An' bribes me conscience wiv the gilt I wins. 
But when I comes out in the cold, 'ard dawn 
I know I've crooled me pitch; 
me soul's in pawn. 

My flamin' sins they 'its me in a 'eap right where I live; 
Fer I 'ave broke the solim vow I give.

Rules of the game  courtesy of The Australian War Memorial site and their source M G Houston.

ode to the meat tray

In 1943, as part of a fundraising campaign, the Battle Stations Appeal, hundreds of communities got together to raise funds in whatever ways they knew how (and some). This item in The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) – 16 September 1943, lists a few of the ways the Mt Morgan Branch of the Australian Comforts Fund went about it.  Dances, sports days, exhibitions, performances and RAFFLES.  None the least of these were meat raffles, a tradition which can still be seen at pubs and clubs around Australia.

The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) 16 September 1943

HT: Rose Hill Bowling Club for this image

The National Library holds an image of a promotional poster for Australia Day in 2010. (Mark Thomas – artist; GPY&R – advertising agency).  It urges Australians to “BBQ like you’ve never BBQ’d before”.  You  can view it and the affection with which meat trays are held here.

Here’s an outsider’s response to the fundraising tradition.  A great read of a visitor’s first impressions of a particular cultural difference from A Cajun Down Under.

Meat tray tickets – HT: A Cajun Down Under

A pageant from the Victorian gold fields

The Australasian Sketcher – 1 June 1886


The dramatic performances given by the Chinese of Victoria at the Exhibition-building in aid of the Women’s Hospital Bazaar are the subject of our first illustration. An account of the pageant appears elsewhere.

Here’s the the supporting article with its full description of the ornate costumes and spectacular performances (and its introductory excerpt below).

THE CHINESE PAGEANT. The Chinese pageant, consisting of a procession through the streets of Melbourne and a dramatic performance in the Exhibition-building, brought a large amount to the bazaar which was being held in aid of the Women’s Hospital during the week ending May 15. It occurred to the promoters of the bazaar that the Chinese had given famous entertainments on the gold-fields, which city people had never seen. The Chinese readily agreed to make a display of the dresses, emblems, and appointments of the combined resources of Sandhurst and Beechworth, and Mr. Kong Meng and Mr. Ah Mouy were so good as to guarantee the payment of all the expenses of bringing the accessories to Melbourne and the incidental outlay, so that the whole of the proceeds of the night might be given to the hospital. The procession was made up of kings, soldiers, officers, guides, boys and girls, standard bearers, together with temples, pagodas, Sedan chairs, emblematic banners, and other articles of spectacular value. …………….

September Maypole dance

Imposing European traditions on lands in the southern hemisphere made for some interesting shifts to tune into the seasons.  Take, for instance, this maypole dance …  in September.  Brisbane Courier – 20 September 1923

April Fools Day – tricks from the past

Townsville Daily Bulletin – 6 April 1931

Camperdown Chronicle – 21 June 1934

Not to forget the old classic – “Can I speak to Mr Lions?” Sunday Times (Perth) – 3 April 1949