Art on Tuesday: Full Moon

woodblock print by Ohara Koson. Plumtree branch with plum blossoms in front of full moon
This beautiful ukiyo-e of a full moon with plum blossoms was designed by Ohara Koson 小原 古邨 (1877-1945). He was a painter and print designer of Japanese woodblock prints best known for his pictures depicting birds and flowers (kachō-e 花鳥絵). Ohara joined the “shin hanga” (新版画) movement in Japan in the early 20th century. He is one of the most famous artists of his time known for his landscape and animal paintings.

woodblock print by Ohara Koson. Full Moon and Blue FlowersHe designed some more ukiyo-e with a full moon as a background. The above picture shows blue flowers and some grass plants with yellow flowers. Some clouds are hanging in front of the full moon.

woodblock print of Ohara Koson. Two geese in flight before a full moon Ohara Koson also painted this pair of flying geese before a full moon. It is an example of his (kachō-e 花鳥絵) ukiyo-e with animals. There are many other beautiful woodblock prints and paintings he made. A good source where you can find his woodblock prints is

Editor’s Note: This post was first published on Japan Kaleidoskop, a blog about Japanese literature and art. It was originally published on April 2, 2013 and was rewritten and updated on May 9, 2023.

Art on Tuesday: Calligraphy

woodblock print of Toyokuni I. A japanese woman reading a letterTitle: “Seven Aspects of Girls: Calligraphy – Actor Iwai Hanshirô”

This ukiyo-e (woodblock print) was designed by Toyokuni I (1769-1825), a Japanese artist,  illustrator and painter, who is famous for his pictures of actors in Japan. In general, kabuki actors were a popular motif of ukiyo-e prints. In this woodblock print you see the actor Iwai Hanshirô. The actor is dressed like a woman. The kimono and hair are richly decorated and styled very beautifully. Men played female roles in Japanese traditional theatre performances. The term for this is called onnagata.

Here the character is reading a scroll. Right to him on the table are brushes, an ink stone and ink. Under the desk, you can see a booklet. It was made with a Japanese binding technique.

There is also a picture in the picture showing probably the same actor in a different situation, he is walking with an umbrella and holding some scripts in his right hand.

The iris flower in the right corner of the picture is a traditional flower in Japan and its meaning is purity and protection.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 02, 2013 and has been updated.

Art on Tuesday: Woman Combing Her Hair

woodblock print of Hashiguchi Goyo showing Japanese woman combing her hair
The name of the woodblock print is “woman combing her hair” (髪すける女) designed/published in 1920 by Hashiguchi Goyô. It is less formalistic than traditional ukiyo-e.

Hashiguchi Goyô (橋口 五葉) lived from 1880 to 1921 in Japan. He was born in the Kagoshima prefecture, south of Japan. He was trained in art since early childhood, as his father was also a painter and a samurai. Hashiguchi graduated from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts top of his class.

One of his first professional design works was the illustration of the book cover of “I am a Cat” by the national iconic writer Natsume Sôseki in 1905. This furthered his career so that he designed also books of famous Japanese authors like Tanizaki Jun’ichirô or Nagai Kafû and others. As an artist he also studied traditional ukiyo-e design. He was fascinated by the works of the Kitagawa Utamarô and Utagawa Hiroshige who are regarded as masters of traditional woodblock prints.

In 1915 Hashiguchi became an artist of the “shin hanga” (新版画) movement, which began in the early 20th century. “Shin hanga” means “new print” and was introduced by the print publisher Watanabe Shôzaburô (渡邊 庄三郎) who was the driving force of the movement in exporting the new art to the USA and Europe. It was then a new artistic concept that combines elements of traditional Japanese woodblock print design with Western paintings especially influenced by the art form of impressionism. The “shin hanga” prints were specifically made for Western buyers.

The “new look” is different from the traditional ukiyo-e in the following aspects: mix and use of Western-style design elements (light and shadow) and new materials (luxurious paper and color pigments). Although they also illustrate beautiful women, actors, birds and flowers and landscapes they were not as popular in Japan as the traditional ukiyo-e.

Editor’s Note: This post was first published on Japan Kaleidoskop, a blog about Japanese literature and art. It was originally published on March 12, 2013 and was rewritten and updated on May 2, 2023.