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Harunobu Suzuki 1724/25-1770

Item # 54891 - Courtesan after Work - Sold for $1,600 - 9/30/2012
Courtesan is coming out from her room to the corridor through "noren" curtain. The large crest of the tea house is printed on the curtain. A part of "byobu" screen is seen between the "noren" curtain.
The oxidation of the cream color and the orange-red color on the print is one of the signs of a genuine print. It is also an esthetically treasured feature among the best connoisseurs of classical ukiyo-e.

The artelino archive offers a database of more than 50,000 sold Japanese prints with detailed descriptions, large images and results. artelino clients with an active purchase history and authorized consignors of artelino have full access to our archive. Read the archive guide and test a trial version.
By Harunobu Suzuki 1724-1770

Harunobu Suzuki is associated with the word nishiki-e, which means literally brocade prints. In a wider sense nishiki-e stands for prints made in several colors. Harunobu is referred as the inventor of Japanese color prints.

Today we know that Harunobu certainly was not the first to make the step from black and white to multi-color prints. But he was the first to take full advantage of the new technique and he made nishiki-e popular. Suzuki Harunobu took the artcraft of Japanese wood block printmaking to new heights.

The Creation of Multi-Color Prints

The necessity to produce prints with several colors was a result of market demand. At the time of Harunobu Suzuki picture calendars were very popular. In the Japanese language and by collectors they are called egoyomi. They were exchanged as gifts and everybody thrived to make the richest and most beautiful egoyomi - both in design, colors and printing materials used.

There were basically only two ways to produce colored prints. Either to print them in black and white and color them by hand or to carve an additional block for each color. It is interesting that the Japanese chose the second way while in Europe only the first alternative was considered - the hand-coloring.

The process of creating a Japanese color wood block print is described in detail in the article Japanese Prints.

Art Style of Harunobu

Harunobu's style is often described as delicate, subtle, sophisticated or stylish. The favorite subjects are the depiction of beautiful young girls and men, lovers or courtesans. But also scenes from everyday's life are common. Harunobu's female images are slender, graceful. He shows them as if they were little teenage girls - fragile and idealized.

The artist was the first to introduce scenes in snow and during the night. The stylish Suzuki Harunobu prints met the taste of the affluent merchant class and were very successful.

Who was Harunobu Suzuki?

Little is known about the life and personality of Suzuki Harunobu. The year of his birth was either 1724 or 1725. His birthplace is mentioned either as Kyoto or Edo (today Tokyo). It is agreed that he spent his life in Edo.

Judging from his prints with often poetic texts, it can be assumed that Harunobu came from a cultured and bourgois background and that he was at home in intellectual and poetic circles. There are also speculations that he came from the samurai class. But that does not mean very much. The percentage of the population with a samurai background is estimated at 8 percent by historians.

The art work of Suzuki Harunobu consists of drawings, paintings and at least 700 color prints. He illustrated about two dozen books. Harunobu as nearly all ukiyo-e artists also produced dozens of erotic prints, called shunga (springtime pictures).

The increased mastering of multi-color printing can be well seen in his prints. His early works before 1765 used two to three colors - usually green and red. After 1766 he used up to ten different colors.

Harunobu died at the age of about 45.

From the artelino Archive

Enjoy a few random examples of related art works sold in past auctions of artelino. Our archive offers a database of more than 50,000 sold Japanese prints and about 2,000 contemporary Chinese art prints with detailed descriptions, large images and results in USD. artelino clients with an active purchase history and authorized consignors have full access. Read the ARCHIVE GUIDE and test a trial version.

Item # 54892 - Thirty-six Immortal Poets - Lady Ise, the Broken Heart - Sold for $1,100 - 9/30/2012
"Sanju Rokkasen" (Thirty-six Immortal Poets). Lady Ise (875 – 938) is looking out at the distant mountain. She is very sad because she has to separate her lover, Fujiwara no Nakahira. She has to move to a distant place following her father. A box containing books and a low desk symbolize her profound knowledge. She was recognized as one of well respected poets in the Imperial court. 22 of her poems were included in the classic, "Kokin Waka Shu".
This design is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.
By Harunobu Suzuki 1724-1770
Item # 54891 - Courtesan after Work - Sold for $1,600 - 9/30/2012
Courtesan is coming out from her room to the corridor through "noren" curtain. The large crest of the tea house is printed on the curtain. A part of "byobu" screen is seen between the "noren" curtain.
The oxidation of the cream color and the orange-red color on the print is one of the signs of a genuine print. It is also an esthetically treasured feature among the best connoisseurs of classical ukiyo-e.
By Harunobu Suzuki 1724-1770
Item # 52324 - Famous Ten Places of Edo - The Evening Glow at Takanawa - Sold for $800 - 7/29/2012
"Furyu Edo Meisho Ju-kei" (Elegant and Famous Places of Edo", "Takanawa no Yusho" (The Evening Glow at Takanawa). A beauty bids farewell to a young man, who came to borrow an umbrella.
By Harunobu Suzuki 1724-1770
Item # 33254 - Elephant Girl - Sold for $600 - 2/10/2008
A girl is sitting on an elephant, reading a scroll. She is probably an allusion to Fugen Bodhisattva (Sanskrit: Samantabhadra) who usually rides on a white elephant with six tusks. A part of a diptych.
By Harunobu Suzuki 1724-1770
Item # 16446 - Beauty Koiyama - Ehon Seiro Bijin Awase - Sold for $600 - 10/9/2005
Sheet from picture book "Ehon Seiro Bijin Awase" (Beauties of Yoshiwara). Very popular picture book comparing 167 beauties of the green houses. Courtesan Koiyama.
By Harunobu Suzuki 1724-1770
Item # 16445 - Beauty Senshu - Ehon Seiro Bijin Awase - Sold for $650 - 10/2/2005
Sheet from picture book "Ehon Seiro Bijin Awase" (Beauties of Yoshiwara). Very popular picture book comparing 167 beauties of the green houses. Courtesan Senshu.
By Harunobu Suzuki 1724-1770
Item # 6726 - Nakatsukasa - Sanjurokkasen - Sold for $3,000 - 11/2/2003
A poem by Nakatuskasa from the series, "Sanju Rokkasen" (Thirty-six Immortal Poets). The poem is read as, "Akikaze no fukuni tsuketemo towanukana, Hagi no Ha naraba, Otoha shitemashi" (Although the autumn wind blows, no one visits. Only the leaves of Hagi are making sound here). Another example of the print in Honolulu Academy of the Arts, ex. Michener collection.
By Harunobu Suzuki 1724-1770

Literature source used for this Harunobu biography

Dieter WanczuraAuthor: Dieter Wanczura

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