Kitty Marosko: The Kimono Project, 2008-2009

The discovery of an 1886 Japanese kimono woodblock-print book in the Hillyer Art Library stacks inspired a year-long watercolor painting project

About the Book

Kimono woodblock-print books (hinagata-bon) first appeared during Japan’s Momoyama period (1568-1600). Smith’s copy of the 1886 Moyo hinagata miyako no nishiki, is one of only four held by U.S. libraries. It came to Smith in 1996, donated by William Samson as part of a collection of woodblock-print books that also included works on birds, flowers, and landscapes.

About the Project

The original book was too fragile and valuable to bring into the studio to use for reference, so the library staff took apart the traditional tied binding and Marosko photocopied and enlarged the pages. She divided the illustrations into three groups based on the complexity of their design and color. She worked on 20 paintings during the summer of 2008, re-did five of those plus the next group of 20 in Smith Professor Susan Heideman's Painting III class in the fall of 2008, and completed the last 22 this spring in an independent study with University of Massachusetts Professor Richard Yarde. The works are painted on Arches 140 lb. cold press archival watercolor paper blocks using Holbein (Japanese company) "Irodori" antique watercolors. The watercolors are based on the palette used by ancient Chinese and Japanese painters. Unlike regular transparent watercolors, "Irodori" paints are highly chromatic, saturated, opaque, and dry with a hard, matte finish. A set of miniature brushes and magnifying glass were used for the minuscule textile motifs. .

About the Artist

Prior to the kimono project, Marosko had taken two semesters of watercolor painting, one at Smith with Professor Susan Heideman and one at the University of Massachusetts with Professor Richard Yarde. She has a longstanding interest in East Asian art and culture and studied Chinese calligraphy at UMass, has practiced tai chi at Smith for eight years, and took classes in Buddhist, Chinese and Japanese art history. To further prepare herself for this project, she surveyed the literature on kimonos to learn about their development and deepen her knowledge of Asian art.


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