Thursday, 11 February 2010

Japanese diving Venus: Awabi fisher by Hiroaki Takahashi

Awabi Fisher (c. 1936)

This print by Hiroaki Takahashi was published by Fusui Shobo who, like others in this short Shin Hanga period, was inspired by the classic Ukiyoe artists of classical times. This picture also owes a lot to Goyo in its restrained use of patterened colour with a bold female nude.

Hiroaki, who also used the name "Shotei", was born in Tokyo in 1871. He first studied classical Japanese painting at the age of nine. He started producing prints for the publisher Watanabe in 1907 but unlike Goyo was much more prolific: producing some 500 prints for Watanabe before the disastrous Kanto earthquake of 1923 and another 250 afterwards. He also produced another 200 prints for Shobido Tanaka. This is a rather atypical print for Hiroaki who tended to concentrate on landscapes such as the one below.

River boats in the evening (c.1930) by Hiroaki Takahashi

The girls who dived for Awabi (abalone) had a reputation in Japan for great sensuality and the artist has captured the effect of long, wet hair on bare shoulders in an almost tactile way.

These diving girls (Ama) were the exception in Japanese art to the non-depiction of nudes and many of the classical artists depicted Awabi or pearl divers.

This earlier picture, by Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900), depicts Awabi divers in action and was published in 1886.

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