|This time, we introduce "Beauty
Looking Back" which is the representative
work of Moronobu Hishikawa who can be
called the founder of ukiyoe.
Moronobu was an illustrator
when there was still nothing to be called ukiyoe.
It is said that he was studying picture by himself
while he became familiar with drawing since he
had carried out the help to draw a rough design
for kimono and so on with the family business.
He must have had a born talent because he established
drawing method of his own without
His drawing grew from illustrated books to independent
picture books, and changed to wood-block prints
(ukiyoe) independent of format of books before
"Beauty Looking Back" by Moronobu Hishikawa
was the first commemorative stamp that was issued
in Japan after World War II. It is
an essential gem among stamp
collectors. Not a few Japanese may image its stamp
sheet for the first time on hearing "Beauty
It is his big achievement that he invented ukiyoe
by wood-block print from autograph ukiyoe.
Thanks to mass production by wood-block print,
it became familiar with people at large widely
and had a great influence on Edo culture, which
is written in the column before last.
The Moronobu Hishikawa Memorial in Chiba Prefecture
is one of the few art museums in Japan which exhibit
Many autograph drawings and wood-block prints
are exhibited in the hall.
Moreover, the bronze statue of "Beauty Looking
Back" stands at the entrance of the hall.
By the way, in fact there are many works in his
later years which are doubtful if Moronobu himself
drew truly though he left his mark on Japanese
Many works which were poor content and lack of
substance remained even if his signature was carried
on the drawing.
What does this mean?
There is no evidence, but it is also said that
many apprentices got involved with mass production
of his drawings in his later years.
He taught many people how to draw starting with
his own son and daughter's husband.
Many apprentices contributed to popularize his
drawings, and it made him achieve the status of
top in the field of ukiyoe in Edo period.
But, no apprentice took over the drawing from
him after his death. And his world broke away
in a very short time.
He was an only man who had a talent after all.
And then the newborn ukiyoe was made to stand
suddenly in difficult surviving.
It was not thanks to apprentices actually taught
by him but other painters' efforts that ukiyoe
world could realize further development without
falling into ruin after he passed away.
Though the portrait of actor and the picture of
beauty which became the main repertory of ukiyoe
established clearly and independently in this
process, . . . it is another story.
Ref. "Attraction of ukiyoe" by Tadashi