We’ve reached the period where these frosty temps are no longer festive, so we’d like to bring a little of that chestnuts-over-an-open-fire vibe back into our lives with our newest Vintage Edition: Page from Shi Zhu Zhai (Chestnuts) by 17th c. Chinese printmaker and publisher Hu Zhengyan.
This print, based on the delicately detailed block print original, is a subtly stunning memento of everything we love about winter. Exposed winding branches support a trio of tufty fruit with snowflake-like spines awash in a serene neutral palate. And scattered below, those tasty, tawny, toasted treats: chestnuts.
Chestnuts was one of 320 prints included in Shi Zhu Zhai (known in English as The Ten Bamboo Studio Manual of Painting and Calligraphy), Hu’s most famous body of work. Serving as an artist’s primer and painting manual, Shi Zhu Zhai was published in 1633 and remained in print for over 200 years. The tome was the first example of both a categorical and analytical approach to Chinese painting and printing techniques.
Born in Anhui Province, Hu Zhengyan moved to Nanjing in 1619 and established the Ten Bamboo Studio, which served not only as an academic publishing house but also as a meeting place for like-minded artists. Located just to the north of the National Academy in Nanjing, the Ten Bamboo Studio catered heavily to the academic market, producing countless academic and medical texts and primers like the Shi Zhu Zhai. These were some of China’s first publications printed in color, using a technique called assorted block printing. This method was lengthy, painstaking work, often requiring over thirty different blocks and up to seventy impressions to create a single image. The results, however, were breathtaking.
Hu further refined this technique by developing a method of wiping ink from portions of the blocks before printing to achieve gradations and modulations of color. In Chestnuts, this approach results in silky, almost gossamer branches and illustrates the curvature of those plump little nutshells. With so much artistry, innovation, and history packed into one print, how can you resist?
With art for everyone, Team 20x200