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Gakutei (1786 - 1868)

Chinese Woman Looking at Spider (Meiji Edition)

Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: c. 1880
Size (H x W): 8.25 x 7.25 (inches)
Edition: Meiji period
Condition: Very good color, impression and state, very small nick bottom edge, embellished with embossing.


Poem by Mochizuki Kagenari.

First edition of this design is illustrated in Surimono from the Chester Beatty Collection by Keyes (pg.39).

In the 1880s publishers took earlier surimono designs and printed them in a number of small edition sets. These prints were sometimes sold to the early Western travelers to Japan. Like the original impressions of these designs, these surimono were exquisitely printed with elaborate embellishments.

About the artist

Born in Edo as Harunobu Sugawara, Gakutei Yashima studied printmaking under Shuei and Hokkei. He moved to Osaka in the 1830s, where he designed landscape studies of his new home with a delicate and decorative style likely influenced by Hokusai. In addition to printmaking, he wrote kyoka (comic poems), often illustrating these verses in his prints. While a talented woodblock artist, Gakutei was also known throughout Japan as a writer. He translated and illustrated the 16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West.


Gakutei Yashima’s oeuvre consists primarily of surimono. These deluxe, limited-edition prints blend the rich visual imagery of ukiyo-e with the ethereal art of poetry. These works were privately commissioned by poetry societies and prosperous patrons of the arts, often in celebration of the New Year, poetry competitions, and other special occasions. Most surimono were printed with a light verse or clever aphorism and employed the most lavish printing techniques. These marvels of woodblock printing employed the finest handmade papers with generous use of gold, silver, bronze, mica, embossing and lacquer-like effect.