Artwork Panel: 28.3cm x 29.7cm ≈ 11" x 11¾"
Silk/Brocade: 37.5cm x 92cm ≈ 14¾" x 36¼"
Width at Wooden Knobs: 46.5cm ≈ 18¼"
Close up view of the crane artwork mounted to this silk brocade wall scroll
This features an Asian crane flying across the red disc of the rising sun at the horizon.
I loved this image when I first saw it on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's website. This was a woodblock print created by 八島岳亭 (Yoshima Gakutei) back in about 1835. All of the prints were created so long ago that they all show a loss of detail and portions were clipped. I spent many hours working on the restoration of the image. You can now enjoy how this would have looked 183 years ago, but for a price you can afford. I also cheated a little, as the original was a little over 8" (20cm) wide. Mine is almost 30% wider, so it makes a better presentation on your wall.
On the right, you will see the artist's given name, 岳亭, written vertically, in black characters. Below, a red stamp appears to be a circle around a 島 character. But the circle is actually a stylized 八 character (see the breaks at the top and bottom of that oval/circle? Those make it two strokes, hence 八). This is 八島 (Yoshima), the artist's surname portion of his signature for this piece. Upon first glance, some may think it's just a circle around 島 (Note: 島 means island by itself).
At the top, there are some poems. On the right is a Chinese ode or poem that speaks of the horizon meeting the red-crowned crane over and over for rebirths that expand 1000 years of history in China. The text on this artwork is written in vertical columns, starting from the right, as all old Chinese writing does. Below, I typed it left-to-right to match the orientation of this text:
I have not found anyone who can translate the ancient Japanese poem on the upper left. The last characters on the far right are 倭和夛守. However, I am not sure of the third character. It seems to be a variant that is no longer used. It might be a variant of 多 or 尋, but nobody that looked at this was sure. Also not sure of the meaning, maybe a personal name.
The artist is believed to be the illegitimate son of Samura Hirata under the Totugawa Shogunate. His mother later married into the Yashima Clan, thus the artist taking the surname Yashima.
The unofficial Japanese title of this piece is 旭日飛鶴 (Kyokujitsu Hikaku) which means, "Sun Rising, Flying Cranes". However, this same title is given to many images of cranes flying by a sunrise.
Between the many hours I spent restoring the image quality, printer cost, ink, other labor, and other materials, I will never make any profit on these, but it's a labor of love. I really like this image and wanted to bring it to the world.
Contrary to popular belief, woodblock printing (and in a way, the first printing press) was invented in China. Both artwork and whole books were produced in China using the woodblock print technique. Much of this artwork and printed books made their way to Japan. Emulating the methods and adding to the style, Japanese artists took woodblock printing to the next level.
In Japan, wood block prints are known as or "Moku Hanga". Most were produced during the Edo period (1603–1867). To put that in perspective, that's from before what is now the USA was even a British colony, to just after the Civil War. Some artists continued creating prints into the early 1900s.
At that time, Japanese artists would create "template paintings" with detailed images of "everyday life" scenes of Japan. Some of these "everyday life" or (Ukiyo-e), which translates as "Floating World" images, depict battling Samurai, beheadings, and even prostitution. This leads you to believe that "everyday life", was rather exciting in ancient Japan. However, most Ukiyo-e prints were more tame scenes of everything from women washing clothes, to men writing poetry.
After creating the template, the artist would then have another artisan carve large blanks of wood with those images. The carved wood blocks were then given to yet another artisan, known as an "inker". The inker would then carefully apply wet ink or colorful paint to the various carved surfaces. A sheet of handmade paper was then pressed over the inked woodblock to create the final print. The process was laborious, but not as tedious as hand-painting hundreds of copies from scratch.
If this was an "original" Japanese woodblock print, dating back to the Edo period, the price would be anywhere from $800 to $20,000.
Just to be clear again: This is a reproduction.
The quality of this reproduction is very good, but a true expert will spot this as a reproduction after examining it.
I use handmade kozo (mulberry) paper - the same kind of paper that Japanese woodblock print makers used centuries ago.
The pigment-based inks are archival and UV-resistant. In independent laboratory testing the giclée prints created with this ink should survive 95 years with no signs of fading, if not in direct sunlight (this will outlast hand-painted artwork under the same conditions). I figure you'll get a lifetime of enjoyment if you take good care of this wall scroll. I spend hours making sure the colors are vibrant, and touching up areas that might be damaged or missing from the old original print. The result is very close to what the woodblock print would look like if you could go back in time to the Edo period, and buy it from the artist's studio in old Japan.
A photographer that I admire, Jeremy Cowart, and his Canon imagePROGRAF printer.
For years I tried to find a printer that could handle handmade paper without wrinkling, jamming, or clogging print heads.
I bought and tried several giclée printers valued at up to $15,000 each. They gave mixed results, I finally found the quality I was looking for in a brand-new Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2000. This printer has 18,432 nozzles and 12 ink tanks. That's 12 ink tanks costing up to $294 each. With the price of the printer at $2,695 it was a total investment of more than $6,000 - which is not a price tag for the faint of heart.
I have to use this printer in the USA to create the print, as I can't get a license for such a machine at my other studio in Beijing (The Chinese government fears that I will make counterfeit Chinese currency, or Pro-Democracy propaganda posters with it).
After carefully printing and inspecting this artwork, I sent the raw print on kozo paper to my workshop in Beijing where it was built into a handmade wall scroll. This makes it ready-to-hang (no expensive framing needed), and gives the whole piece a very traditional Asian look.
Because the artist of this piece passed away long ago, and the original artwork is over 100 years old, there is no copyright. However, in some cases, I have paid a license fee to the owner of the original Japanese woodblock print for access to create the digitized image. In a few cases, I bought original 200-year-old woodblock prints and drum-scanned it at high-resolution.
All of this effort on my part means you get a really beautiful Japanese woodblock print reproduction, for a very affordable price. I am not sure I will ever make a profit on these (I would need to charge about double this price if that was the goal), but I really like to make unique Asian artwork affordable and accessible to everyone.
Want a customized wall scroll or custom-sized print? Just contact me!
I can print this larger, on the paper texture of your choice, and give you whatever silk brocade colors you want. Ready-to-frame prints can be delivered in a few days. However, it does take several weeks for custom wall scrolls. Either way, it's worth the wait if you want something really custom and unique.