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Harunobu (1724 - 1770)

Stepping Between the Shoji

Series: The Brocade of Spring, v.1 [Ehon]
Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: c. 1771
Size (H x W): 8.25 x 11.75 (inches)
Publisher: Yamazaki Kinbei
Condition: Good color and impression, soiling and wear, left and right edges remargined, album backing, embellished with oxidation, double-page illustration from ehon.

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This illustration comes from volume one of Harunobu's 1771 illustrated book titled The Brocade of Spring. It was originally published by Kinbei Yamazaki with carving by Matsugoro Endo and preface by the author Hekigyokudo. Though the book was released in 1771, it would have been completed before the artist's death in 1770.

About the artist

While little is known about his early life, Harunobu Suzuki (né Hozumi) was a ukiyo-e woodblock print artist that lived and worked in Edo. Said to have been the student of Shigenaga, Harunobu’s early actor prints suggest the strong influence of Toyonobu, Sukenobu and the Torii school. Though he began his print career with actor prints, Harunobu's later prints focused on young girls and the tantalizing courtesans of Edo. In the spring of 1765, Edo saw the first nishiki-e (full-color prints). Commissioned by wealthy patrons, the first full-color prints took the form of egoyomi (calendar prints). Intricate and lavish, these private Harunobu Suzuki prints were soon released in separate, public editions through publishers and booksellers. Harunobu Suzuki used nishiki-e to capture the urban, everyday world of Edo in brilliant color. He is considered a true luminary of ukiyo-e, a talent beyond compare. He produced over 500 printed works, as well as many paintings, before his death in 1770. From shunga (erotic prints) to classical poems, he is a master of color. Harunobu Suzuki’s genius is particularly apparent in his depictions of young women. Presenting a delicate, youthful vision of idealized femininity, he is an ukiyo-e artist that influenced many artists to come.