What are Kecheneny Fish Prints?

Gyotaku - Japanese Fish Prints

Gyotaku is the art of making Japanese fish prints. By pressing a smooth sheet of paper or fabric against the prepared surface of the fish, an artist can reproduce the size, form, and surface features of a fish exactly as they are in Nature. Used originally to record impressions of fish, nowadays Gyotaku receives enthusiastic reception as a decorative and interpretive art form. Major exhibitions featuring Gyotaku continue to receive excellent reviews in press and on television.

The word Gyotaku is a phonetic translation of an old Chinese term now part of the Japanese language. The first part, “gyo” stands for fish; the second part, “taku” means stone rubbing. It literally means “to produce an impression by rubbing.”

In Japan, fishermen used the method to make permanent impressions of celebrated catches. Prints of a trophy fish established bragging rights and included information such as the angler's name, date, weight and location of catch. The proud owner would then display the print high on a wall within the tackle shop for all to see, admire and envy.

In April 1955, printmakers formed the Association of Gyotaku (Gyotaku-no-kai) in Japan. Later that same year the Fish Prints Friends or Association of Gyotaku was founded in the US. These associations established procedures and technical methods for making Japanese fish prints.

All materials, paper, ink, colors and brushes must be of high quality. In the hands of accomplished artists, the finished product shows refined expression in its form, texture and color and is an object of surprising beauty. Nowadays rubbings and prints can be seen displayed alongside other notable pieces of art.


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