In Japanese belief, carp are often associated with dragons. Legend says that a carp’s ability to swim upstream and over waterfalls without ever giving up in the face of adversity brought with it admiration from the gods who have granted the carp eternal life as dragons. A wisteria tree is depicted on the top, symbolizing late spring, as it usually blossoms around the months of April and May, but also symbolizing long-life and immortality. Coupled together, carp are seen as symbols of abundance along with wisteria as a symbol of fertility.
Part of a series of shikishiban-sized woodblocks that Gekko produced based on the areas of people, animals, and scenery.
The Woodblock Print
This original shikishiban sized woodblock is in fine condition. Thin paper with thinning in areas; not noticeable when against a white background (scanned against black). Corner as seen.
About the Artist
Ogata Gekkō (尾形月耕, 1859-1920) was a Japanese artist who is considered one of the great ukiyo-e woodblock print artists of the late 19th century. Born on November 25, 1859, in Edo (modern-day Tokyo), he was the son of a samurai family. Gekko studied under Kawanabe Kyosai and Taiso Yoshitoshi, two prominent ukiyo-e artists, during the Meiji period. Gekkō was self-taught in art and began by decorating porcelain and rickshaws, and designing flyers for the pleasure quarters. Around 1881 he took the surname Ogata at the insistence of a descendant of the painter Ogata Kōrin. He soon was designing prints and illustrating books and newspapers, but his talents soon caught the attention of publishers and collectors, and he started creating woodblock prints.
Gekko’s artwork reflected the changing times in Japan during the Meiji period, as the country opened up to the West and modernized rapidly. His prints often featured contemporary subjects, such as train stations, factories, and steamships, as well as historical scenes and traditional Japanese motifs. His style was characterized by bold outlines, strong contrasts, and vivid colors, which were achieved through the use of multiple woodblocks.
In addition to woodblock prints, Gekko also created paintings and illustrations. His work was exhibited both in Japan and overseas, including at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He was also a member of the Tokyo Bijutsu Club and the Japan Art Association.
Gekko was active in the Japanese art community and contributed to the development of the art form. He taught at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts and was involved in the publication of the influential art magazine “Taiyo.” He also collaborated with other artists, such as Tsukioka Kogyo and Mizuno Toshikata, to create joint print series.
Gekko continued to create art until his death in 1920. His legacy as an artist was significant, as he was a pioneer in the development of the modern Japanese woodblock print. His works are held in collections around the world, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.