The Art of Friendship: Japanese Surimono Prints

Chester Beatty Conservation

The Chester Beatty Library’s collection of surimono and picture calendars extends to some 375 single sheet prints. Alongside these are the kyōka books and a further 116 surimono with illustrations in the Shijō style popular in Osaka and Kyoto, many of which are preserved in albums. The greater part of this collection was formed between 1954 and 1963.

Acquired by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty for his newly built Library in Dublin, the collection took shape under the specialist guidance of Jack Hillier and Beatty’s own developing interests in Japan’s printed arts. As works created through the collaboration of artists and poets in celebration of new beginnings, it is fitting that these prints were collected in that same spirit.

Triptych J 2183 before (above) and after conservation (below)

2017 marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Ireland: an event precipitated in March 1957 by an exchange of letters between…

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Nothing Is Off-Limits in Hirokage’s Humorous Ukiyo-e Prints by Claire Voon from Hyperallergic

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Many artists during Japan’s Edo period designed ukiyo-e woodblock prints, but the works of Utagawa Hirokage stand out from many of these “pictures of the floating world” for their affinity for the absurd. A student of the famed Utagaway Hiroshige, Hirokage is perhaps most known for an incredible triptych of a battle between fruits, vegetables, and fish — but also for a successful series he published around 1860 titled Edo meisho doke zukushi, or Joyful Events in Famous Places in Edo. The 46 images set in present-day Tokyo are simply bizarre: scenes of a tiny octopus attacking people on a beach or of foxes carrying pumpkins are so ridiculous you can’t help but chuckle. Hirokage, in a sense, was churning out the memes of his time.

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