My recent exploration into the world of carving and netsuke has seen me take a far more in depth interest in Japanese art than I had previously ventured. This is an effort to understand the motivation behind many famous netsuke artists from the Meiji period and earlier which should in effect influence my own work. I often pondered how many of the artists developed their style and very Japanese interpretations of their subject matter.
After reading a lot and thinking on it further the whole style of the netsuke, especially the more abstract ones makes a lot of sense. In the context of a world where there was no, or very little photography and travelling places took extended periods of time, seeing new things or exotic animals was difficult for the majority of people. Netsuke artists would often use prints from other artists and illustrators. These artists would have been constricted by the same restrictions so their prints were based on other artists prints or from descriptions in books or from people. There was no google images so finding out what stuff looked like could be hard, or seeing what aspects of a common animal looked like still had to be done through direct observations as there was no photography. This combined with artistic flare led to the art we see today.
I decided that if my carvings were to feel authentic then I need to take a similar approach so I have been compiling many Japanese prints. I recently found in my favorite second hand book store, Barter Books, a great book of Japanese bird prints. Only problem is it is an original (for only £6.60) and is in Japanese so i am unable to read it. A bit of research has revealed this to be one volume of a 3 volume set of 100 Japanese birds by Bairei dated to around 1890.
enjoy these wonderful prints.