The 76th feature exhibition

Beauty of luster
August 4 (Tue), 2020 – November 15 (Sun), 2020

This museum exhibits ukiyo-e woodblock prints produced in Osaka in the Edo period. Most of the ukiyo-e prints made in Osaka were portraits of kabuki actors on stage in a gorgeous costume.

To make ukiyo-e, first the artist sketches the design, then the carver pastes it on a woodblock, and the printer applies colors. The combination of the carver’s skill to cut finely and accurately and the printing technique with innovative ideas reproduces the vivid kabuki stage.

In this feature exhibition we focus on techniques to make ukiyo-e shine. You may not identify the luster of the katana swords or costumes when you look at the ukiyo-e print from its front. People at the time enjoyed the luster only when they took the ukiyo-e print in their hands and see it from the different angle. Please join and enjoy the beauty of luster of ukiyo-e prints.

“Konoshitakage Hazamagassen”
Drawn by Shunkosai Hokushu
Actor: Nakamura Utaemon III playing Ishikawa Goemon

Luster of the katana swords
There are two genre in kabuki plays; jidai-mono (historical plot) and sewa-mono (contemporary setting). In jidaimono, a world of samurai warriors are mainly described so that the katana sword is essential item as a symbol. The luster of the katana swords drawn on the stage catches an eye of the audience and its sharpness makes them feel excited. The hamon (edge pattern) is depicted in detail in ukiyo-e, and in some ukiyo-e the mica (mineral) or metallic pigments are used to make the sword look more sharp, glittered and silvery.

Pattern that emerges by angle
The kimono in this ukiyo-e looks all black when you see it from the front. But when you see it from the different angle, you can see the pattern emerge on the kimono. This printing technique is called shomen-zuri or tsuya-zuri. To print ukiyo-e, you generally put coloring materials on the woodblock and firmly rub the back of a sheet of paper with a tool called baren to lift ink from the woodblock. But to make this ‘shiny’ effect, you rub the front side of the paper after it is printed.

It might be difficult to see it through the glass, but by changing your viewing angle or direction, you can see the pattern.
A light is available for use if you need one. Put the light on the ukiyo-e from below from the sign or an allow.

Shining prints
Mica (mineral) powder or seashell powder is used to make the surface of ukiyo-e glitter. Ukiyo-e prints drawn by famous Toshusai Sharaku and Kitagawa Utamaro are produced using rich amount of mica(unmo in Japanese) powder for the background, so they are called “unmo zuri” (mica prints).
Some medium-sized ukiyo-e are made using metal powder such as brass powder, tin powder, or mixture of lead and paint. These prints are thickly painted so the surface seems heavy and oily.
There are also cases where both richly-painted version and lower-priced version are printed using the same woodblock. The difference between them is quite obvious. Please see it with your own eyes.