Andon 83

March 2008

Andon 83

Among the thousands of prints designed by Kuniyoshi, his caricatures and humorous prints represent an often neglected aspect of his oeuvre. In an earlier issue of Andon  (67) Sepp Linhart introduced us to comical prints based on ken, a popular Japanese drinking game. This time he discusses Kuniyoshi's ken prints made after the restrictive Tempö Reforms (1842), and tells us more about these enigmatic prints depicting people or animals in awkward positions making suggestive hand gestures. The tradition of making ken game prints has now been lost. Following the retirement of Matsui Shigeo, one of the last craftsmen to hand make game cards, another tradition is also in danger. Rebecca Salter tries to document these declining traditional crafts with interviews and film. In her article she explains the use of different types of cards and shows how Matsui-san used to manufacture playing cards, for which distinguished artists such as Hiroshige and Hokusai used in the past to contribute designs. No doubt the celebrated courtesan Takao of the Great Miura brothel must have been familiar with the ken drinking game and with playing cards. Based on an interview with the artist Kunichika in a newspaper, Amy Reigle Newland elaborates on a magnificent painting of Takao, made by the artist when staying in the house of a sake brewer at Iwatsuki in Bushū. Takao might have ordered her kimono from a pattern book now in the collection oÍ the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Rachel Saunders, supported by a grant from the Heinz Kaempfer Fund, is studying these kimono books. She examines how these early equivalents of modern 'glossies' evolved and reflected the fashion of the day.

I hope you will enjoy reading this issue of Andon.

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