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* Ukiyoe The third story *

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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
any learning.
His drawing grew from illustrated books to independent picture books, and changed to wood-block prints (ukiyoe) independent of format of books before long.

"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 Looking Back".

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 ukiyoe specially.
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 history.
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 Kobayashi.
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