January 28, 2020

Year of the Mouse

        The rat has a bad reputation, understandably enough, and it seems that no one makes block prints celebrating rats, except those who embrace the macabre.  Yet here we are in the new Year of the Rat, and it’s time to celebrate.  If it makes it any easier, in English we always call the Chinese zodiac symbol a rat, but in Chinese the same word refers to both rat and mouse, so we could just as easily call this the Year of the Mouse, and feel better about it.  So here’s a collection of block printed mice (and one rat).  The
first is mine.  Nothing especially interesting about it, although I confess I’m rather fond of it.
        The interesting thing about the second is, of course, its composition, with the mouse all alone in the corner, in the dark.  It’s very dramatic… and I am jealous of that incredible black.  A black that pure and even is possible only with oil-based ink and a press, so I never achieve it in my prints.
        This tiny mouse is from a primer from about 1776, and it is about as high-quality as most primers
throughout the history of children’s education: not exactly the highest level of artistry.  It is a serviceable little moufe, though!
        This rat appears to have a scholarly bent, and perhaps even a predilection for the arcane.  Those born in a rat year are supposed to be clever and have great ideas, but not always great communication skills, so it looks like this rat is working on that.  Also, rats are supposed to be liked by everyone, so reconsider those rat prejudices!
        And our final mouse, by C.B. Falls, is clearly a harvest mouse, so it can send us back to the previous post featuring lots more block prints of harvest mice.  You can also see a fun giant rat here!
        Happy Lunar New Year!

[Pictures: Mouse, rubber block print by AEGN, 2011;
Mouse, linoleum block print by Belle Baranceanu, c 1937 (Image from Asheville Art Museum);
m Mouse, wood block print from The Royal Primer, c 1776 (Image from University of California);
Rat, woodcut by Liv Rainey-Smith, 2013 (Image from her Etsy shop Xylographilia);
M is for Mouse, wood block print from ABC Book by C.B. Falls, 1923.]

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