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Eizō and Matsuomaru

Identifier: 1954 Sekino-0002
Description:

"Sekino Junichiro was drawn to the stage, as evidenced by this print from a series showing bunraku (puppet-theater) performances. Here, the puppeteer Yoshida Eizō handles the puppet Matsuomaru, a medieval warrior." (This is quoted directly from the Chicago Art Institute site.)

The Art Institute owns both a preliminary colored drawing for this print, dated 1947, and an unillustrated copy of the print from 1953.

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Oliver Statler in his Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn wrote on page 65: "He carves with the traditional chisels, and like a good workman he keeps them very sharp. The facial shadings of his portraits are archieved by shallow, beveled cuts with a wide, curved chisel.

He uses plywood for most of his blocks, but he falls back on a block of solid katsura wehn he needs sharp definition. For example, Eizo and Matsuomaru... was made with six blocks of plywood faced with firm, close-grained shina and one solid block of katsura on which he carved the fine details of the faces. For prints other than portraits he frequently uses plywood faced with rawan, which has a coarse, even grain. He gets an interesting textural effect with this wood by scouring out the soft part of the grain with a wire brush. A block so treated yields a print with even, parallel unprinted streaks. Sometimes he crosses two such blocks to obtain crosshatching, a trick much the same as that used by traditiional ukiyoe artisans when they achieved the amazingly fine detail of mosquito netting by carving the vertical lines on one block and the horizontal lines on another.

He prints on torinoko paper. He sizes his own paper with animal glue, hangs it up to dry, and moistens it again before printing, all in the traditional way. His editions are from twenty to fifty, but he usually attempts to print only three at a time and commonly finds that only two of these will turn out to be satisfactory."

Statler's entry on this print on p. 193 reads:

Polychrome impression, 19 x 24 7/8 in. Published in 1953. Carved, printed, and published by the artist. Edition: limited to 30 (29 printed to date). Blocks: 6 blocks of plywood faced with shina, 1 block of solid katsura (for facial details); 21 printing stages. Pigment: two types of sumi, ordinary black and a bluish kind; French water colors for the earth colors of the faces; Japanese pigments for red and blue; gouache for green, yellow, ochre, and light red; poster color for white; Japanese tube water colors for other colors. Paper: torinoko. Location: Art Institute of Chicago, Honolulu Academy of Arts, and the collection of the author. Notes: This is one of Sekino's studies of Japan's great puppet theatre, Bunraku. Shown here is Eizo Yoshida manipulating the puppet Matsuomaru in the scene called Terakoya (The Village School), which is part of a long play, Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami (The Lustrous Imparting of Sugawara's Calligraphic Secrets). The climactic moment shown is that in which Matsuomaru inspects the head of his own son, whom he has arranged to have sacrificed in order to save the son of his former lord, Sugawara; a minute later he wil falsely certify that the head is that of Sugawara's son. The puppet whose head is shown behind Matsuomaru is Tonami, the wife of the schoolmaster. (For further discussion of the play see Japanese Theater by Faubion Bowers). Sekino did the sketches in the theatre during performances at the Shimbashi Embujo, Tokyo, in 1947.

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There is another copy of this print in the collection of Smith College - unillustrated.

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