The print Ducks is Goyo Hashiguchi's only nature study. Goyo was a scholar of ukiyo-e, and an avid follower of Utamaro. Though Utamaro was famous for his beauties (bijin-ga) it is thought that Goyo found inspiration from Utamaro’s various duck prints and his famous bird book, Myriad Birds: A Kyoka Competition (Momo chidori kyoka awase, 1790). The color of each duck’s tail indicates a male or a female, a symbol of fidelity. Goyo completed this work during his lifetime. The blocks for Ducks were carved by Shichinosuke Takano and printed by Shozaburo Akimoto.
About the artist
Goyo Hashiguchi (born Kiyoshi Hashiguchi) was born in Kagoshima to Kanemitsu Hashiguchi, a Shijo-style painter. Goyo began his career in Kano painting at age 10, moving to Tokyo in 1899 to study with the leading painter Gaho Hashimoto. He soon shifted to Western-style painting under the tutelage of Seiki Kuroda at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, where he graduated at the top of his class in 1905. Shortly thereafter, the prominent Shin Hanga publisher Shozaburo Watanabe convinced him to try his hand at printmaking. Watanabe published Goyo’s first woodblock print, Nude After Bathing in 1915. Goyo’s sensitive portrayal of women in a delicate, serene and infinitely graceful mode led to his immediate popularity.
Unlike many Shin Hanga print artists, Goyo Hashiguchi established his own workshop. His standards were so high that he rarely allowed his editions to run more than eighty prints. This decision resulted in some of the most technically superb woodblock prints to be produced since the late 18th century. On February 24, 1921, Goyo died from an ear infection, the aftermath of a severe case of influenza. Goyo’s entire artistic career spanned 15 short years, of which only the last five were spent producing prints. He completed a total of 14 prints. At his death, many of Goyo's works were left in various stages of completion. Members of his family completed these designs following his death.