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Friday, 26 January 2018

Imao Keinen’s woodblock diptych, “Manazuru (Hooded Cranes)”, 1891


Imao Keinen (今尾景年) (1845–1924)

Oban diptych, “Manazuru (Hooded Cranes)”, 1891, plate 22, from the “Summer Album” in the series, “Flowers and Birds of the Four Seasons” (Keinen Kacho Gafu), woodblock prints cut by Tanaka Hirokichi, printed by Miki Jinzaburo, published by Nishimura Soemon.
Colour woodblock prints (two panels), trimmed, abutted and laid upon a support sheet as a single composition and signed on the left margin with the names of the artist and publisher.
Size: (assembly glued on support sheet) 31.5 x 46 cm; (diptych of woodcut sheets) 31.5 x 46 cm

See all the prints featured in the four volumes of “Flowers and Birds of the Four Seasons” at the Yamada Bookstore (山田書店美術部オンラインストア): http://www.yamada-shoten.com/onlinestore/detail.php?item_id=41944
See another copy of this pair of prints with variations in the colours at Panteek Antique Prints: https://www.panteek.com/Keinen/pages/ken22-161.htm

Condition: superb impressions trimmed to the image borderline at the side and bottom and slightly within the borderline at the top and affixed with archival Japanese starch glue onto a support sheet of millennium quality washi paper.

I am selling this pair of original woodblock diptychs for AU$200 (currently US$161.63/EUR130.01/GBP113.49 at the time of posting this listing). Postage for this print is extra and will be the actual/true cost of shipping.

If you are interested in purchasing these large, very beautiful and genuine prints by one of the great masters of Japanese printmaking, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


The series in which this diptych features, “Flowers and Birds of the Four Seasons”, was a substantial nineteenth-century undertaking considering the large size of these prints. Indeed the series, from my understanding, has 160 of these large prints in total with each of the four seasons celebrated with 40 prints showing the flowers and birds of the season. This particular pair of prints comes from the album focused on summer.

I was thinking about what prompted the artist to craft this image to stand as an exemplary scene about summer—mindful that these graceful cranes also feature in a pair of prints about spring (see http://www.printsandprinciples.com/2017/02/imao-keinens-woodcuts-from-spring-album.html )—and I have decided (with full acceptance that I may be wrong) that the attributes of summer may be about the expression of open space and heat.

Regarding the notion of “open space”, this feeling of airy openness is captured in part by the spatial gaps separating where each crane stands in the water and by the high viewpoint that also helps to draw attention to the space around the birds. To see what I mean, compare the arrangement of the cranes portrayed here with the tight clump of birds shown in the spring album.

Regarding the idea that this composition expresses a feeling of warmth, I must admit that I struggle to establish with great certainty which critical elements project the feeling. Certainly colour should play a role. To be frank, however, the patch of warm colour (viz. the orange on the heads of the cranes) may be stretching the truth. I will instead, propose that the small dots on the sand bank and the general spiky character of the foliage may be the visual prompts. Regardless, of what I should be proposing, at an intuitive level I really do sense a feeling of warmth and so closer inspection and more contemplation is necessary to find the “real” visual cues.







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