Plum Tree of a Country Farmhouse


Along with new artwork, a new and less formal style of poetry called haikai (linked verse) spread among the urbanites of Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo in 17th-century Japan. Haikai was also very much a social activity, with linked-verse parties held on regular occasions in homes or at restaurants. Such poetic gatherings helped give rise to privately commissioned woodblock prints, called surimono (printed matter), which paired images with representative verses from the circle. Both were typically intended to carry the cachet of “insider knowledge” for a cultured and well-educated audience. Because such surimono were not intended for sale but as gifts, artists, engravers, and printers would produce them with extreme care. The final products are, in many cases, among the finest examples of woodblock-printing art. The poetic text on this print describes the enticing scent of a plum tree, which compels passersby to look up at its source. It is by artist, print maker, and book illustrator Toyohiro Utagawa (circa 1773–1829).

Last updated: September 18, 2015