Suzuki Harunobu (Japanese, 17251770)
Polychrome woodcut print on paper; 11 1/4 x 8 1/8 in. (28.6 x 20.6 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1936 (JP2453)
Suzuki Harunobu was one of the earliest woodblock print artists to exploit the full-color print technique, making him one of the most successful commercial designers in Edo. His first effort in making multicolor prints (nishiki-e), which had heretofore been made in black and white or with only a limited range of colors, was a calendar commissioned in 1764 and later widely marketed. During the next five years until his death, Harunobu capitalized on its popularity and designed hundreds of color prints of classical and contemporary themes.
Here an elegantly dressed couple stroll along under a shared umbrella beneath a snow-laden willow tree. The man is dressed in black and wears a hood, while the lady is cloaked in a flowing white outer robe. This fashionable pair reflect the rise of the wealthy chonin and their interest in elegant clothes, pleasurable pastimes, and the arts, especially woodblock prints. Harunobu depicted beautiful women as being slender and graceful. He did not individualize his figures, but presented them as idealized images without unique features.