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Ehon. The artist and the book in Japan
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Ehon. The artist and the book in Japan

Roger S. Keynes

Catàleg de l'exposició celebrada a la New York Public Library
20 d'octubre del 2006 al 4 de febrer del 2007



Autor: Roger S. Keynes
Títol: Ehon. The artist and the book in Japan
Editor: New York Public Library
Data: 2006
Format: tela, 23 x 30,5 cm, 320 pàgines, 250 il·lustracions en color
ISBN: 0-295-986-24-7

Ehon – or “picture books”– are part of
an incomparable 1,200-year-old Japanese
tradition. Created by artists and craftsmen,
most ehon also feature essays, poems, or
other texts written in beautiful, distinctive
calligraphy. They are by nature collaborations:
visual artists, calligraphers, writers,
and designers join forces with papermakers,
binders, block cutters, and printers. The
books they create are strikingly beautiful,
highly charged microcosms of deep feeling,
sharp intensity, and extraordinary intelligence.
In the elegant, richly illustrated Ehon:
The Artist and the Book in Japan, renowned
scholar Roger S. Keyes traces the history
and evolution of these remarkable books
through seventy key works, including
many great rarities and unique masterpieces,
from the Spencer Collection of the New
York Public Library, one of the foremost
collections of Japanese illustrated books
in the West.

The earliest ehon were made as religious
offerings or talismans, but their great
flowering began in the early modern period
(1600–1868) and has continued, with new
media and new styles and subjects, to the
present. Shiohi no tsuto (Gifts of the Ebb
Tide, 1789; often called The Shell Book)
by Kitagawa Utamaro, one of the supreme
achievements of the ehon tradition, is
reproduced in full. Michimori (ca. 1604),
a luxuriously produced libretto for a Noplay
is also featured, as are Saito- Shu-ho’s
cheerful Kishi empu (Mr. Ginger’s Book of
Love, 1803), Kamisaka Sekka’s brilliant
Momoyogusa (Flowers of a Hundred
Worlds, 1910), and many more.

Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan
ends with ehon by some of the most innovative
practitioners of the twentieth century.
Among these are Chizu (The Map, 1965),
Kawada Kikuji's profound photographic
requiem for Hiroshima; Yoko Tawada’s
and Stephan Köhler’s affecting Ein Gedicht
für ein Buch (A Poem for a Book, 1996);
and Vija Celmins’s and Eliot Weinberger’s
Hoshi (The Stars, 2005).

The magnificent ehon tradition originated
in Japan and developed there under very
specific conditions, but it has long since
burst its bounds, like any living tradition.
Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan
suggests that when artists meet readers in
these contrived, protected, focused, sacred
book “worlds,” the possibilities for pleasure,
insight, and inspiration are limitless.

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