Japanese Woodblock Series

Vintage Find

About six months ago while shopping at a vintage store in the valley with my sister-in-law, we came across a portfolio sitting on the floor behind a chair. The plain cardboard folder contained over 20 large prints with about 20 smaller prints inside. I knew right away that they were Japanese woodblock prints and once I turned over the backside that they were originals. We decided to split the price, not knowing what was really inside the package but felt that it was impossible to leave them at the store. Once I got them home, the enchantment took over. As a designer who loves print, the search was on to find the artist who created the amazing artwork. The process was not an easy task, and to say that I have now looked at hundreds if not a thousand of Japanese woodblock prints is an understatement.  My first thought is to thank Google, this search engine supplied image after image based on my search descriptions, it would have been a frugal endeavor, to find the artist or any information on the prints without this search engine, so thank you.

Tsuchiya Koitsu 1870-1949
Seto Inland Sea, Akashi Bay

So how do you find the information about a print when you have absolutely no idea who the artist is? Description, description, and more description! Downloading an app that translates Japanese into English helped but not by much because it did not give ample information needed, sometimes I got lucky because some of the prints had an artist signature, but still I had to locate the print. Once I started finding a few of the prints and the artist I proceeded to contact authentication firms, art galleries, museums and print dealers to see if I could get some authentication. I was positive they were original prints, but with all the markings I still could not determine the year date or authentication. I knew it had to be sometime during the ’50s because if they were of an earlier date, they would not be cast aside on a floor of some vintage store but that was just a guess. So month after month the search for anyone to respond to my request became a game with a little bit of enthusiasm only to find no follow through. Finally, after months and countless requests, I was beginning to think no one was interested in authenticating our prints. We had not thought about selling the prints; the task was to find someone, anyone to confirm my opinion that they were originals. This week I contact another gallery and the very next day I was stunned to find a response to my print request. Our Japanese woodblock prints are originals dated around the 1950s; they are later editions because the publisher's seal was missing in the margins and the written script was the title. We also learned that in the current state some of the prints had a price range of $150.00-$300.00 and was offered a nice sum for the three prints I had sent for review. BONUS, I called my sister-in-law and said that we had finally found the information we needed and that the price we had paid for the prints was worth the endeavor. Not all of the prints are in good condition but the search for every artist was a wonderful experience, and I have grown with the process. The dealer is in the process of making us an offer on the balance of the prints I know are in perfect condition based on all the research done, but it is the process of finding the prints creative history that I have found to be the most rewarding.  I have started to document the prints for my library before we let them go, in doing so this product development designer has decided to start the Japanese Woodblock Series about each print that I have found information on and the artist who created this fabulous print style.

Stay tuned it is going to be an informative ride.

To all Happy Holidays, Easter & Passover and may we all remember never to give up.