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Photographic Painting of a Maiko
500 x 350mm
Images and text courtesy of Terry Bennett (Old Japan - www.old-japan.co.uk - EB-30020)
Unknown artist, unknown process, on silk(?) and pasted-down on new card, ca. 1890, measures 500 x 350mm, very light foxing and otherwise in excellent condition. Hand colouring of photographs with water colours had been common in Japan from the 1860s. But in the late 1870s the well-known photographer, Yokoyama Matsusaburo, started experimenting with a number of printing techniques and also developed a form of photographic oil painting (shashin abura-e). This involved peeling off the emulsion covering the face of a photograph and then painting the rear side with oil paints. One of his students, Azukizawa Ryoichi, developed and patented his own technique and described himself as a "Patent Oil-Painter on Photograph and Lithograph, and Common Oil-Painter and Photographer." In 1885 he was granted a fifteen-year patent and he applied this strange technique to the standard photographs of views and costumes usually found in souvenir albums. A number of Meiji-era photographers seem to have experimented with similar methods and with mixed results. Of the examples seen, it is difficult to tell whether the pictures are photographs or paintings.