Ogata Gekkō – Taikobo (Tai Gongwong) Fishing Without Bait, Gekko’s Essay

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Gekkō, Ogata


(B) Fine Condition






Aiban (9″x13″)


Fishing, Landscape, Story

A beautiful and quiet scene of the elderly scholar Taikobo (the Chinese Tai Gongwang) sitting on a rocky outcrop fishing. He fished without bait because he was not really interested in catching fish, but rather in using the quiet time to think. He is wrapped in a tan robe, seated on a fur animal skin, quietly watching the line for any sign of movement…. quietly ignoring the banners of the emperor’s procession appear over the distant hillside, the mountains below rendered in pale gray.

Gekko’s Essay – Gekko Zuihitsu

The series Gekko Zuihitsu (Gekko’s Essay) is among Ogata Gekkō‘s major works, created in 1886 and 1887. The series was published by Matsuki Heikichi in 1887 and consists of 47 designs plus a title page. The format of the single sheets is oban tate-e (portrait format).

The subjects are a diverse collection – history, mythology, warriors, poets, common and not so common people. Gekko’s great contemporary Yoshitoshi had created around the same time a large series with no focus on a specific content, the series Tsuki Hyakushi (“Hundred Aspects of the Moon”). But while Yoshitoshi’s hundred designs have the image of the moon as common bond, the Gekko series is missing any formal or contents-related bond. Only the design frame with title and text cartouche and the typical Gekko style of composition and mostly subdued colors make the prints recognizable as part of a series.

The Woodblock Print

This aiban woodblock is in fine condition with good colors, bleed through, intact margins and a clean verso. Some minor soiling, but even. A repaired tear in one of the margins. Exceptionally rich color.

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.