Harunobu’s version of the sea is harmoniously completed by a trio of elegant figures out for a boating excursion; the water that guides them along is serene and gentle. This print is from a series of “parody prints” or mitate-e: Harunobu played with associated traditional literary sources from both Japan and China, often replacing historic and literary figures with the beautiful young women of his time.
Another impression of this print can be found in Harvard Art Museums.
About the artist
While little is known about his early life, Harunobu Suzuki (né Hozumi) is a traditional ukiyo-e 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 with actor prints, Harunobu Suzuki’s later prints focused on young girls and the tantalizing courtesans of Edo. He produced over 500 printed works, as well as many paintings, before his death in 1770. In the spring of 1765, Edo saw the first nishiki-e (“brocade pictures” or 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 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. From shunga (erotic prints) to classical poems, he is a master of color. Harunobu’s genius is particularly apparent in his depictions of young, innocent women. Presenting a delicate, youthful vision of idealized femininity, he is a ukiyo-e artist that influenced many artists to come.
"I love them, I have a lot of them (shunga)." - Pablo Picasso