"A definite yes and no"

Email received December 6, 2002

Hello Marc,

I have looked at the 3 cats, and read the accompanying text. I think it is very difficult to assess these things after the event, unless there is either contemporary documentation, or recorded observation to support a particular hypothesis. I am becoming very concerned at the increasing amount of exploitation of the Shin Hanga market, with new prints on old paper being churned out, and now there seem to be nearly limitless supplies of Hiroaki miniature prints, which were quite unseen 12 months ago. But I doubt that anyone would produce copy paintings of Shin Hanga prints for exploitative purposes. I does cross my mind that, in my student days, we would occasionally attempt to copy an artwork as an exercise, and if they did that sort of thing in Japanese art schools, they might well use a Shin Hanga print as a subject. I think it is interesting that the white cat painting is reversed vis-a-vis the print, and since it would not matter in terms of accuracy which way round the cat was, the blockmaker might have copied the painting exactly, resulting in a print which was the reverse of the painting. Which does not explain the black cat, of course. The seal and signature issue also makes me wonder whether such accurate and indeed similar renditions would have appeared on an artist's preliminary artwork, or whether they are so carefully reproduced because they were copied from the print. If this were a philatelic item, and I was still working for an auction house, I would describe these as 'possibly artist's preliminary artwork for the issued print, or possibly later copies of the issued print.'

So that's a definite yes and no from me,

Bruce Henderson

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