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Turn the pages: interactive Utamaro books now online

Web users can now explore virtually the masterworks of Japanese illustration featured in the exhibition Kachōfūgetsu: The Natural World in Japanese Prints, which closes later this month on Sunday 17 May.

This unique online interactive allows you to 'turn the pages' of the nature-themed illustrated books of Kitagawa Utamaro (c.1756-1806) from the collection of the Fitzwilliam - the 'Insect', 'Shell' and 'Bird' Books - and study their exquisite detail close-up.

These books feature illustrations designed by Utamaro to accompany kyōka - playful ‘crazy-verse’ poems - on nature themes. With this new interactive, users can explore these poems by clicking on them for a pop-up translation. This project is unique in that this is the first time that English translations of all three of these books have been made available, opening them up to a non-specialist audience.

The interactive also allows users to learn about the remarkable printing effects employed by Utamaro to create these books, which are acknowledged masterpieces of design and printing. Users of this feature can investigate these special effects: from how shine and sparkle on the illustrations has been achieved through application of brass dust, to how texture has been embossed without use of ink.

Visit the Utamaro Books Online (Flash player required)

Visitors’ praise for the Utamaro Books Online:

"Sheer heaven. I loved the doves and the quails, and the whole presentation, what a treat."

"Superb ... I love the use of simple boxes to translate and explain. Also the positioning of these on the page is so sensitive, letting you still see the material that is being explained. Fantastic."

"A real treat to be able to view the complete books at leisure, and to share them with other members of the family."

The Utamaro interactive is supported by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and Japan150, with funding from MLA Renaissance East of England.

1 May 2009

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