Eisen-s Blue-Printed Pictures

Paul Binnie, Scottish, b. 1967

A Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo: Eisen's Blue-Printed Pictures
(Edo zumi hyaku shoku: Eisen no Aizuri-e)

the background printed with bold sumi ink bokashi of baren swirls, a view of a seated nude from behind, she leans on her left hand while raising her right hand to touch her coiffure in the takashimada ('high Shimada') style, the tattoo based on an ukiyo-e print by Eisen depicting a courtesan rolling a letter; the series title cartouche in bronze-gold in the upper right margin, Edo zumi hyaku shoku, the print title to the left with the first portion, Eisen no, in the style of Eisen's signature, followed by a small aizuri-e (all blue print) of the original composition from which the tattoo is derived, signed in bronze-gold kanji, Bin-ni, with artist's red seal Binnie in the shape of a baren (the essential tool used by a woodblock printer to work the pigments into the paper), numbered and signed in pencil on the bottom margin, 33/100 Paul Binnie; July 2011

oban tate-e 16 7/8 by 12 in., 43 by 30.6 cm

For this design, Binnie references the short-lived but highly influential fashion for aizuri-e (all blue) prints which exploded onto the print market circa 1830 with the arrival of an aniline dye imported from Europe (commonly known as Prussian blue). Unlike the natural pigments previously used for print-making; this blue was strong, vibrant, intense, and stable. The availability of such an appealing color inspired the tremendously successful landscape series, Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858); essentially creating an entirely new and seemingly insatiable market for landscape prints. Keisai Eisen (1790-1848), one of the leading bijin-ga artists at the time, also produced landscapes utilizing the new blue pigment. In fact, there is scarce (if not unique) fan print by Eisen dated 1829 in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art which is thought to be the earliest dateable aizuri-e.

The Binnie seal in the shape of a baren is a play on the print title, ai-ZURI-e (blue printed picture), thus the baren is the tool used for 'suri' (printing).


First Night

Paul Binnie, Scottish, b. 1967

A Collection of Eastern Brocade Beauties: First Night
(Azuma nishiki bijin awase: Shoya)

a view of a nude from behind, with white mica background over gofun, baren sujizuri in the pink robe to her left, the red hair accessories embellished with mica; signed at left in kanji, Bin-ni, followed by artist's red seal Binnie, the series title on the upper left margin, Azuma nishiki bijin awase, the print title on the lower left margin, Shoya, embossed Binnie at the center of the bottom margin, and numbered and signed in pencil, 33/100, Paul Binnie; July 2011

dai oban tate-e 17 1/2 by 12 1/8 in., 44.6 by 30.8 cm

This elegant composition of a nude against a white ground, with only a touch of red in the robe by her side, and red and purple in her hair ornaments, may seem like a departure from Binnie's typical lavish bijin prints; however, the simplicity is deceptive. The gofun (ground calcified oyster shells) background is washed with thin mica applied with a technique Binnie gleaned from a Taisho Period (1912-1926) publication. A photograph gives a hint of the glistening mica, but can not capture the true effect of light on the surface.


Cool Breeze

Paul Binnie, Scottish, b. 1967

Cool Breeze

a view of a nude from behind, with flat black background (printed three times), the figure outlined in orange and black, with mica on the small squares of the orange robe to her left, the title Suzukaze in purple at upper left margin, signed at the lower left in purple kanji, Bin-ni, followed by artist's seal Binnie in yellow, embossed Binnie at the center of the bottom margin, and numbered and signed in pencil, 18/100, Paul Binnie, July 2011

dai oban tate-e 16 7/8 by 12 1/8 in., 42.9 by 30.9 cm

This dramatic composition is not part of any of the print series currently in production. Unlike most woodblock prints which typically print the key block in black or dark grey, with this print the figure is partially outlined in in orange in order to pull the figure out against the deep black background. There are other playful touches of color: the purple signature and title and the yellow seal pick up the color of her hair ornaments; while the geometrically patterned orange robe effectively contrasts with the background.



Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only

Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit between 11am and 4pm for no more than two individuals at a time.
In order to adhere to New York State guidelines visitors are asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing.

site last updated
August 5, 2020

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475