pillar prints (hashira-e - 柱絵) (genre )



Sarah E. Thompson in her essay 'The Original Source (Accept No Substitutes!): Okumura Masanobu' in Designed for Pleasure: The World of Edo Japan in Prints and Paintings, 1680-1860 wrote on page 71:

"The final third of Masanobu's print career began in the early 1740s when he brought out three important new lines: pillar prints (hashira-e); perspective prints (uki-e) that employed Western-style vanishing-point perspective; and color-printed images using red and green blocks (benizuri-e) in addition to the basic black key block. Masanobu began to apply the term kongen not just as a general claim of quality and (unspecified) originality, but to imply that he was indeed the inventor of these new images.

The pillar prints are most likely Masanobu's innovation. Many of them include the words hashira-e kongen (originator of pillar prints) in his signature, not in the publisher's seal. The only indication of the publisher is the gourd-shaped sign of the Okumuraya, which contains "Tanchōsai," another of Masanobu's art names. His intent was to make these prints resemble paintings, a return to the successful large-format prints of the 1710s at which he had excelled."


Roger Keyes suggested that "...the tall narrow format forces the viewer to ask what exists outside the frame of a pillar print in both a temporal and spacial sense. The hashira-e format constructs a view that is voyeuristic - we look in on the intimate moments in the lives of others. Perhaps a more pertinent question is whether hashira-e elicit in the viewer's mind a narrative of a very personal sort. Do hashira-e evoke the dreams, aspirations and desires of the viewer? Do they bridge the gap between seeing and desire, between voyeurism and vicarious experience? Do they evoke memories?" Quoted from: The Prints of Isoda Koryūsai: Floating World Culture and its Consumers in Eighteenth-century Japan by Allen Hockley, p. 160.


Keyes also wrote elsewhere:

"The large hand-colored kakemono-e of the 1740s were printed on single sheets of paper, but many were engraved on blocks that fitted together from two pieces of wood. In the course of time, the two pieces tended to warp and separate, and later impressions of many of these prints show a noticeable split along one side of the block. Perhaps to avoid an unsightly break some impressions were printed on narrower sheets of paper from the larger portion of the wood. These prints led to a genre of even narrower prints called hashira-e, or pillar pictures. They were sold in paper mounts as hand-scrolls and were hung on the narrow support posts on the walls of rooms in houses. Harunobu and a follower both designed prints of women holding mounted pillar prints in their hands, and Harunobu designed one picture of a pillar print in place on a wall.

Jacob Pins has pointed out that the early pillar prints were printed on a single sheet of paper, but that from the 1790s on they were printed on two sheets joined around the middle.The vogue for pillar prints diminished in the early nineteenth century. Large vertical prints were still published, but they were formed by joining two or sometimes three full-sized ōban sheets vertically..."

Quoted from: Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Catalogue of the Mary A. Ainsworth Collection by Roger Keyes, p.100.