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Sumo Wrestling


Japanese Color Screenprint

Sumo Wrestling

by Ay-O, 1984

IHL Cat. #816

About This Print

Source: Japanese Art in Detail, John Reeve, Harvard University Press, p. 92.

Sumo wrestling is another spectator sport, here captured in a vibrant modern print.  Sumo originated as part of the Shinto religion, perhaps 2,000 years ago.  Sumo tournaments were held at shrines as part of harvest thanksgivings, and even today the referee is dressed as a Shinto priest.  Sumo became a professionalized spectator sport during the Edo period and is now watched by millions on TV, not just in Japan.

This is a striking silkscreen print by Ay-o, the adopted name of a painter and printmaker based in Tokyo and well-known internationally. 

The two outsize bodies are squeezed into the space, giving it energy and drama.  By reducing virtually all detail to outline, the artist is able to focus our attention on the tensed toes and leg muscles, the wrestlers' arms grasping and attempting to push each other over, and the fringe and giant bow of their belts.  This image is based on a woodblock print by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864), and as a tribute his signature is included in the bottom right-hand corner.

香蝶楼 国貞画 Kōchōrō Kunisada ga

Utagawa Kunisada
The wrestlers (from left): gyōji Kimura Kishinosuke, Koyanagi Tsunekichi, Shiranui Dakuemon, Toshiyori Hidenoyama, c. 1840
signed Kōchōrō Kunisada ga
香蝶楼 国貞画
Image can be found at http://www.kunisada.de/Kunisada-Sumo/Kunisada-sigend-Uhei-Keijiro.htm

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #816
 Title or Description Sumo Wrestling
 Ay-O (b. 1931)
虹 靉嘔
(Rainbow Ay-o)
 Publication Date 1984
 Edition 108 of 120
 Publisher  unknown
 Printer possibly Okabe Print Editions
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent
 Genre modern print - silkscreen
 H x W Paper 27 x 35 1/4 in. (68.6 x 89.5 cm )
 H x W Image 15 5/8 x 32 3/8 in. (39.7 x 82.2 cm) 
 Collections This Print British Museum 1986,1029,0.3 (11 of 120); National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts 09800331 (16 of 120);
 Reference Literature Contemporary Japanese Prints: Symbols of a Society in Transition, Lawrence Smith, Harper & Row Publishers, 1985, p. 27 and plate 3; Collected Writings of J. Thomas Rimer, J. Thomas Rimer, Vol. 11 The Collected Writings of Modern Western Scholars on Japan, Taylor & Francis Group, 2005, p. 48; Japanese Art in Detail, John Reeve, Harvard University Press, 2006, p. 92.