Ginkgo Under Autumn Rain, with Featured Poem by Natsume Sôseki
In bygone Japan it was not uncommon for privately commissioned woodblock prints, known as surimono (摺物), to incorporate poetry. The one here is by the acclaimed writer Natsume Sôseki (夏目 漱石 1867-1916) whose works are considered to have an enduring influence on Japanese literature in the modern era. Here he writes of the colour blue, how it sets in with Autumn, not unlike the dying of woven pattern fabric;
The deep blue settles —
Around this time is when the Autumn rain appears (Akisame 秋雨). In woodblock printing the indication of rain was no easy feat, and placed particular demand on the carver tasked with etching countless parallel streams. As the season takes hold, the leaves of the indigenous ginkgo tree turn from green to golden yellow.
Tradition in the Making
As with Western wood engraving, woodblock printing was the accepted technology of its day. And similarly it required the collective intentionality among the contributors: artist 浮世絵師, carver 刀師, printer 摺師, and a publisher 版元. In the case of surimono, a poet might also be sought out by the commissioner. Printing this way has long been surpassed by photomechanical engraving and lithography. Nonetheless, it is a tradition that has been preserved remarkably well.
Ginko Under Autumn Rain is part of an ongoing exploration of eastern visual culture. Giclée printed onto archival quality 308gsm Hahnemule paper, this unique art-print comes framed. Drop an email if interested.