Prints from the Korin Gafu ("Album of Korin Pictures") and Printed Books from the Nineteenth Century
The Korin gafu by Nakamura Hochu (fl.1790-1813) represents one of the earliest sparks of the nineteenth-century revival of Rimpa-style painting. The Rimpa-style tradition was defined by the artists Tawaraya Sotatsu (?-1643?) and Ogata Kerin (1658-1716). Some distinguishing stylistic effects include tarashikomi (a technique of dropping darker pigments into wet areas and letting the colors or ink bleed) and mokkotsu (the "boneless" method of painting which uses pure shape without contour lines). Motifs from nature, often with poetic associations, and classical figures were the favored subjects. When the Korin gafu was first printed in 1802, artists painting in Ogata Korin's style had all but vanished. Hochu's work is unique in its innovative merging of the Rimpa painting style with new subject matter and the woodblock printing techniques of the ehon (printed picture book) tradition. The prints on display, taken from one of the later reprintings of the Korin gafu, are here contrasted with another edition of the same work bound in album format, other printed picture books in the Rimpa style, and contemporary sketchbooks and picture books.
The ehon evolved from the tradition of printing illustrated books of classical texts which began in the Kyoto region in the early seventeenth century. Although originally promoted as a means to educate and entertain the literary elite, the illustrated book became a valuable art form in itself. By the eighteenth century, the popularity of haiku poetry and the burgeoning activities of the urban populace influenced the subjects and styles of a broad spectrum of printed books. Many picture books featured a taste for "ordinary," simple subjects of nature or domestic life, or the bustle of contemporary urban life in Kyoto and Osaka. The printed books on display offer a glimpse of this extraordinarily rich tradition.