The Fox Woman
color woodblock print; signed in pencil along the bottom border, copyright 1916 by Bertha Lum, and numbered in the lower right corner, 67, 1916
17 by 10 5/8 in., 43.2 by 27 cm
In addition to mastering the color woodblock carving and printing process, Lum was a student of Japanese culture, exploring a particular fascination with myths and legends. That said, Lum was not overly concerned with adhering to the narrative aspect of an image, often leaving much to the imagination of the viewer, as is the case with the subject of this print, The Fox Woman. In Japanese mythology there was no single Fox Woman, but the state of being possessed by a fox was usually the misfortune of a woman. One particularly well-known fox-girl was called Kuzunoha (her name can be translated as 'kudzu leaf'). The wispy flames in the background and hovering over the woman and her silhouetted fox spirit are foxfires, a mysterious light or flame that it was said that foxes could produce from their breath or their tails.
This design was likely produced by professional carvers and printers working for Lum during her fourth trip to Japan between 1915 and 1916. In general, Lum favored a soft palette which enhanced the mystique of her prints, but saturated yellow-orange hue of the rising moon indicates the excellent preservation of color on this impression.
Mary Evans O'Keefe Gravalos & Carol Pulin, American Printmakers: Bertha Lum, 1991, p. 40, cat. 38 (color illus.)
Yokohama Museum of Art, Eyes Towards Asia: Ukiyo-e Artists from Abroad, 1996, p. 53, no. 48
Chazen Museum of Art, Color Woodcut International, 2006, p. 84, no. 27
(inv. no. 10-5513)
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site last updated
October 3, 2022
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
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