gyotaku

   In Japanese tradition, a relief print made from an actual fish, and sometimes from a shell, leaf, or other object from nature — inked and placed on paper or cloth. In Japanese, gyo means impression, and taku means fish. This is a relatively new technique. The oldest known prints were commissioned in 1862 by Lord Sakai in the Yamagata Prefecture to preserve the memory of a record catch. Ever since, gyotaku has been employed as a way for Japanese sport fishermen to record the exact size and species of fish they've caught. The original kind of gyotaku involves applying black ink directly to a fish, and making an impression on thin rice paper or cloth. This creates an image with bold contrasts and powerful lines. Such gyotaku are commonly exhibited on the walls of homes, or kept in journals to document fishing achievements, much as western fishermen display photographs and taxidermy. When Japanese fishing organizations hold contests for the largest fish caught, they typically judge gyotaku to determine winners.

Glossary of Art Terms. 2014.

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