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Biography: ENJAKU (猿雀)

Enjaku 1863 yonezo as kainosuke
Enjaku print from 3/1863
Ichikawa Yonezô III (市川米蔵) as
Kainosuke (かいの助)




Enjaku signatureEnjaku (猿雀 act. c. 1856–1866) was an Osaka print designer who is known today only by his artist's name (geimei). He produced more than 150 designs, with an extraordinary 88 percent in deluxe editions (jôzuri-e: 上摺絵). Nearly all were chûban (中判 approx. 250 x 180 mm), but five compositions were ôban (大判 approx. 370 x 280 mm) and one each were in the hosoban (細判 approx. ), tanzaku (短册) approx. 380 x 170 mm), and koban (小判 ranging from 190-230 x 130-160 mm) formats.

Enjaku's deluxe designs must have been printed in small editions because many are known in only one or two impressions and very few show any signs of key-block wear. Only some later ordinary editions (namizuri-e: 並摺絵), that is, impressions without deluxe pigments or techniques, seem to show obvious thinning or breaking up of the key-block lines.

Enjaku specialized in designing deluxe actor prints made with luxurious techniques (metallics, embossing, burnishing, expensive pigments, gradated shading, multiple hues of a single color). He worked with the finest Osaka block cutters and printers of the late Edo period. In some cases his portraits were significantly enhanced by the quality of the printing, and these works are among the most impressive examples of the printmaker's art at the transition into the final period in Osaka. His prints were often issued without publisher's marks, possibly through private arrangements with block-cutter and printer workshops as special commissions from actors or their fan clubs and private patrons.

Enjaku was perhaps the most interesting transitional artist in the late 1850s-early 1860s shortly before the final period of Osaka printmaking. All the surviving prints bearing Enjaku's signature demonstrate a refined sensibility. The color palette is rich but well balanced, still avoiding the garishness that would creep into some later Osaka printmaking. The facial lines are thin and precisely carved and printed, and the clothing patterns are detailed but not overwrought. While the identity of the artist remains a mystery, he must have been held in high regard, given his many deluxe prints, which were more expensive to produce than the conventional standard editions. He brought a fresh new intelligence to the established Osaka style and seemed a near-perfect match for the brilliance of the master carvers and printers of his time.

Pupils of Enjaku

It appears that Enjaku had but one pupil, an artist active in the early to mid-1860s who signed as "Engetsu" (猿月). He is known by only one chûban print design, a triple okubi-e (large-head picture: 大首絵) portraying the actors Ichikawa Jûtarô (市川重太郎), Ichikawa Yonezô III (市川米蔵 with toy horses), and Kataoka Shimanosuke (片岡島之助) as a Manzai dancer.

For more information about Enjaku, see John Fiorillo's web page: