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Cats have been a popular subject on Japanese art prints during all periods - from the Edo period (1603-1868) until our days. Some of the Japanese print artists are especially well-known for their cat portraits. Part I presents cat prints that were created during the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.
First Publication: May 2009
Latest Update: April 2013
Utagawa Kunisada was a popular and prolific woodblock artist of the late Edo period. He was certainly not specialized in Ukiyo-e of cats. But we found this one. It is not an original, but a reproduction, and shows a "bijin" - Japanese for "beautiful woman" - presumably a prostitute, playing with a cat.
The print has oban size and was hammered in one of our auctions for $ 60, a typical price for a reproduction.
Of all Edo printmakers Utagwa Kuniyoshi was the one with a distinctive love for cats. In his own household there were always a dozen cats or so strolling around according to what his students remembered.
This triptych is a rather special "cat" print. The cat image was shaped as a huge snow man by the ladies-in-waiting of the imperial palace. This original Japanese woodblock print was made circa between 1847 and 1850. The publisher was Yamaguchi.
This rare triptych was hammered at $ 380 at one of our auctions in December 2006.
Ando Hiroshige is not known for cat prints but as one of the greatest printmakers of landscape prints of the 19th century. But this design is famous, and as an original very rare. We can show it only as a reproduction. It is titled "Asakusa Ricefields" and is from the series "One Hundred Famous Views of Edo". The original was published in 1857 by Uoei. We sold this design four times since 2001 for hammered prices from $ 70 up to $ 130.
The so-called shin hanga printmaking movement from the first half of the twentieth century produced few prints with cat subjects. This design by Hiroaki Takahashi, 1871-1945 is among the best know designs of this genre. It shows the artist's cat named Tama. The design is beautiful and exceptional with the white cat against a black background and the red neck collar of Tama. The print was first published in 1926. Publisher was Watanabe Shozaburo.
The copy that we sold in February of 2004 for a hammered price of $ 750 is an impression pulled after world war II. This design is pretty much in demand by collectors.
Tomoo Inagaki is probably the Japanese artist associated most with cat images. He was a great cat lover himself and specialized in cat prints. It is astonishing how he managed to express the typical poses of cats in a modern composition typical for the period after world war II. The composition is influenced by a Western art movement called cubism that was made popular by Spanish painters Juan Gris and Pablo Picasso.
Title of this cat print is "Cat's Makeup". It was created around 1955 in woodblock technique. The Japanese title is "Neko no Kesho".
We sold this cat print in January of 2008 for a hammered price of $300.
This woodblock print is titled "White Cat" and is from a limited edition of 100, created by Junichiro Sekino in the 1950s. It shows a white angora cat and is one of Sekino's most sought after designs. The print was sold in one of our auctions in December 2008 for a hammered price of $ 700.
I found this video on Youtube. Beautiful collection of Japanese cat prints. Most of these prints seem quite familiar to me. ;-) Duration: nearly 5 minutes. But never boring. Thanks to hili2005 for creating this and sharing it with us.
Author: Dieter Wanczura
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