Gekko Ogata is one of the important ukiyo-e artists of the Meiji era. He had developed his own artistic style which was influenced by traditional Japanese painting. Gekko's woodblock pritns are a bit like a bridge between the old ukiyo-e style, as practiced for instance by his contemporary Kunichika Toyohara, and the modern Japanese prints created in the twentieth century.
First Publication: May 2002
Latest Update: April 2013
Gekko was born with the original name of Nagami Masanosuke in the Kobayashi quarter of Tokyo. He became an orphan and was adopted by a family with the name Ogata.
In the beginning of his artistic career, Gekko was attracted by drawing and by painting. He probably never underwent the traditional apprenticeship in any of the printmaking schools. Some believe he had been a pupil of Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (Taiso). But his style does not support this theory.
Gekko made a living by making designs for lacquer ware and as an illustrator for newspapers and books. When he turned to printmaking, his different style created some problems for the block carvers and printers. They were used to clear lines and separated areas of the same color.
Gekko Ogata developed his own typical style. His origins as illustrator and his preferences for drawing and painting are visible in his prints. Art critics say that Gekko tried to imitate the brush stroke in his prints.
One of Ogata's favorite subjects are natural prints. His kacho-e - bird prints - are numerous. He had a special skill for the details of the plumage of the birds. Later Koson (Shoson) Ohara, a shin hanga artist, developed a similar mastership in depicting the birds' plumage.
During and after the Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895) the artist created several war print triptychs. While many of these war prints were merely aimed at illustrating the events and were created by artists who are not known for any other works, the war prints created by Gekko have an artistic value of their own. Gekko even accompanied the troops as a war correspondent for a Japanese newspaper. Back at home he transformed his numerous sketches into prints.
Although Gekko Ogata prints make a modern impression, the artist himself considered himself as a part of the ukiyo-e tradition. His obligation in preserving traditional values is expressed in Gekko's historical series like Chushingura or the Tale of Genji.
Another important theme of Gekko woodblock prints are genre scenes from the everyday life of people - mothers with their children, children playing in their streets. These prints reveal an interesting insight into the daily life In Japan at the turn of the century.
Collecting prints by Gekko Ogata is an interesting market niche. The prints are not expensive - starting at US$100 and usually not exceeding US$500. Unusual and rare subjects may be a bit more expensive.
Collecting prints by "cheap" artists has a great advantage. You can hardly be cheated. The creation of fakes is financially uninteresting.
Author: Dieter Wanczura
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