UTAGAWA KUNIYOSHI 歌川国芳, NIHON KIJINDEN 日本奇人伝, 1849

Figure 1 Page 28
Figure 2 Page 26-27

Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi 歌川国芳 (1797-1861)

Author: Hanagasa Bunkyō 花笠文京 (1785-1860)

Title: Biographies of Extraordinary People of Japan, vol.2

Date: 1849

Medium: Monochrome woodblock print; ink on paper

Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.8 x 0.9 cm

Publisher: Yamazaki Seishichi 山崎清七 (Sanseidō 山静堂)

Arthur Tress Collection, Box 34, Item 24  

https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502737003681

 

The second volume of a two-volume set, Nihon kijinden in the Tress collection features pictures of extraordinary personalities in Japanese history designed by Utagawa Kuniyoshi and brief biographical entries written by Hanagasa Bunkyō. Kijin (eccentric or extraordinary people) connoted individuals that did not conform to conventions, and did so in a desirable and inspiring way.[1] Individuals representing a wide range of eras, classes, occupations, and personalities in Nihon kijinden were selected for their individual commitments to their values and extraordinary achievements.

The figures illustrated here seem preoccupied with their own business and are depicted against a plain background. Although shown in groups, each figure shows little awareness of others in the same composition. Nevertheless, they are not represented in a rigid manner or in isolated positions. Instead, not only do the figures seem energized but also the compositions incorporating texts and images display great variety and dynamism. In some compositions, the associations among individual figures are clear, for example, three ukiyo-e masters of the time, Kuniyoshi国芳, Kunisada 国貞, and Eisen英泉are illustrated on the final page (fig. 1), while in other groups figures seem unrelated to each other. For example, the Edo courtesan Ōshū 傾城奥州from the Yoshiwara is put into juxtaposition with Taira no Kiyomori 平清盛 (1118-1181), an ambitious and powerful samurai-politician from the late Heian period.

Facial features, costumes, and poses contribute to signifying the dispositions, occupations, and lives of the extraordinary individuals. Empress Kōmyō 光明皇后 (701-760) from the Nara period assisted her husband in dealing with national affairs is shown standing in a splendid kasaya (fig. 2). The garment suggests her contribution to the construction of Buddhist monasteries in Emperor Shōmu’s reign, while the two wooden basins on her side refer to a Buddhist legend that Empress Kōmyō, having made a vow to help bathe the ten thousand without discrimination, washed the back of Ashuku Buddha who appeared to her as a beggar.[2] In the same composition, an elderly figure sits on the floor with one knee up and the other down, holding a book in his hand–this is Bakin馬琴 (1767-1848), a celebrated novelist from the Edo period (fig. 2). Bakin was such a prolific and diligent writer that even after turning blind in very old age, he persisted in completing the last chapters of his epic novel The Chronicles of Eight Dog Heroes of Satomi with the assistance of his daughter-in-law.[3] The identities of these extraordinary personalities are further enhanced by some pictorial elements. For example, a sleepy cat snuggling up to a seated man immersed in an unrolled handscroll signals that this is Kuniyoshi himself, known for his appreciation of cats as well as his popular cat prints (fig. 1).

A leading ukiyo-e designer in the late Edo period, Utagawa Kuniyoshi was well known for his warrior prints and those depicting heroes in combat with monsters. These dramatic and imaginary scenes from Kuniyoshi’s brush thrilled Edo viewers and his prints had great commercial success even under restricted censorship. Kuniyoshi also designed remarkable prints and illustrated books of kabuki actors, beauties, landscapes, erotica, and humor throughout his career. Some of the extraordinary figures included in Nihon kijinden are also seen in his prints. In Nihon kijinden, Kuniyoshi portrayed himself as wearing a lavishly decorated kimono, and his colleague, Kunisada, in a comparatively simple garment.

 

Other Impressions

The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C (Vol. 1-2) https://pulverer.si.edu/node/545/title/2

 

Selected Reading

Clark, Timothy. Kuniyoshi from the Arthur R. Miller Collection, London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2009.

Ikumi Kaminishi. “Women Who Crossed the Cordon.” In Women, Gender and Art in Asia, c. 1500-1900. Edited by Melia Belli Bose, London and New York: Routledge, 2016.

Iwakiri Yuriko. “The Life and Career of Utagawa Kuniyoshi: An Artist of Unbridled Creativity,” In Kuniyoshi: Japanese Master of Imagined Worlds, Leiden: Hotei Publishing, 2013, pp. 9-24.

Iwakiri Yuriko, Nihon kijinden commentary: http://pulverer.si.edu/node/545/title/1  (Accessed November 12, 2019)

Kameya, Patti. “When Eccentricity Is Virtue: Virtuous Deeds in Kinsei kijinden.” Early Modern Japan: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 17 (2009): 7-21.

Zolbrod, Leon M. “Takizawa Bakin, 1767-1848: A Restoration that Failed.” Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 21, no.1/2 (1966): 1-46.

 

Notes

[1] See Kameya, 7-9.

[2] See Ikumi Kaminishi 2016, 321-342.

[3] See Zolbrod 1966, 42.

 

Posted by Aria Yirou Diao

Oct. 24, 2019

UTAGAWA TOYOKUNI 歌川豊国, YAKUSHA KONOTE GASHIWA 役者此手嘉志和, 1803

Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni歌川豊国

Title:  Yakusha konote gashiwa 役者此手嘉志和

Date: ca. 1803 (享和3)

Medium: Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper; paper covers

Publisher: Maruya Jinpachi (丸屋甚八)(Marujin, Enjudō)

Location: Kislak Center for Special Collections – Arthur Tress Collection. Box 10, Item 2. See link.

Gift of Arthur Tress

Utagawa Toyokuni’s Yakusha konote gashiwa (1803) consists of 2 volumes in which 24 lower and higher ranked actors are represented, and, like actor prints (yakusha-e), offered the possibility to extend the actors’ expression beyond the stage of the theater. Each volume of the picture-book is composed of 6 double-page illustrations, depicting two types of half-length portraits of individual actors: one on the right page reflecting the actor’s onstage character and one on the left page referring to the actor’s everyday appearance. The first volume of the book contains portraits of many kabuki stars, such as Ichikawa Danjūrō VII and Iwai Kumesaburō (Iwai Hanshirō V). In the second volume we find actors such as Segawa Kikunojō III and Ichikawa Hakuen (Ichikawa Danjūrō V).[1]

Including an actor’s two sides—on-stage and off-stage—can be connected to increased public interest in the actor’s likenesses (nigao-e)[2]. In the 1770s, the first recognizable portraits of actors appeared in Japanese actor prints. This went hand in hand with the introduction of half-length close-up portraits of actors in prints, emphasizing their facial features and expressions.[3] The picture-book itself however, does not refer directly to the actor’s individual names and does not contain any more specific information on the actors themselves.[4] Sometimes the actor’s crest alludes to the identity of an actor: for example, on the cover of the volumes we find the actor crest of Ichikawa Danjūrō ()[5]. Since specific information on the actors is not included, the picture-book was probably intended for readers familiar with kabuki culture.

The Japanese artist Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825) is primarily known for his actor prints (yakusha-e) of the kabuki theater, particularly for the high level of individualization that these include. Toyokuni was part of the Utagawa school, founded by his teacher, Utagawa Toyoharu. Thanks to Toyokuni, the Utagawa school came to dominate the world of ukiyo-e with their prints of beauties and actors from the late eighteenth-century through the nineteenth-century.[6] Toyokuni’s students included Utagawa Kunisada and Utagawa Kuniyoshi, also featured on this website.

Another impression of this print is in the Pulverer Collection. Other copies can be found in Hōso Bunko (Nagoya), Iwase Bunko (Nishio City, Aichi Prefecture), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), National Diet Library (Tokyo), Tokyo National Museum, and University of Tsukuba Library.

Selected Readings

  • Andrew Gerstle, Akiko Yano, and Timothy Clark, Kabuki heroes on the Osaka stage 1780-1830 (British Museum Press & University of Hawai’i Press, 2005).
  • Hans Bjarne Thomsen et al., Japanische holzschnitte aus der sammlung Ernst Grosse = Japanese woodblock prints from the Ernst Grosse collection (Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2018), p. 149.
  • Higuchi Kazutaka and Alfred Haft, “No Laughing Matter: A Ghastly “Shunga” Illustration by Utagawa Toyokuni, Japan Review (2013), pp. 239-255.
  • Richard Lane, Images from the Floating World: The Japanese Print (Konecky & Konecky, 1978).
  • Ryōko Matsuba and Timothy Clark, “Kabuki Actors in Erotic Books (‘Shunpon’),” Japan Review (2013), pp. 215-237.
  • Suzuki Jūzō 鈴木重三, Yakusha ehon no kōyō「役者絵本の効用, in Ehon to ukiyo-e『増補絵本と浮世絵』 (Tokyo: Perikansha, 2017), p. 522.
  • Timothy Clark, Osamu Ueda, and D. Jenkins. The Actor’s Image: Printmakers of the Katsukawa School (Princeton: Princeton University press, 1994).

Posted by Hilda Groen

October 5, 2019

[1] Yakusha konote gashiwa in Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. http://pulverer.si.edu/node/551/title/1/0, accessed on 19 September 2019.

[2] Matsuba Ryoko, “Kabuki Actors in Erotic Books (Shunpon),” Japan Review (2013), pp. 215–37

[3] Andrew Gerstle, Yano Akiko and Timothy Clark, Kabuki Heroes on the Osaka stage 1780-1830 (British Museum Press & University of Hawaii Press, 2005), p. 41.

[4] Yakusha konote gashiwa. http://pulverer.si.edu/node/551/title/1/0, accessed on 19 September 2019.

[5] Richard Lane, Images from the Floating World: The Japanese Print (Konecky & Konecky, 1978), pp. 205-206.

[6] Kazutaka Higuchi and Alfred Haft, ‘No Laughing Matter: A Ghastly “Shunga” Illustration by Utagawa Toyokuni’, Japan Review (2013), pp. 243-244.

VARIOUS ARTISTS, MEIKA GAFU 名家画譜, CA. 1814

Title: Meika gafu 名家画譜

Date: 1814 (Bunka 11)

Medium: Woodblock printed; ink and colour on paper.

Publisher: Nagoya : Eirakuya Tōshirō, 永楽屋東四郎.

Donor: Presented by Arthur Tress. Arthur Tress Collection, Box 1, Item 12. https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502582303681

Meika gafu, “A Book of Paintings by Celebrated Artists,” can best be described as an encyclopaedia of the “who’s who’ in Japanese art. Interestingly, however, the volumes capture no Ukiyo-e or Rinpa masters. Jack Hillier remarks that “[T]he complete absence … denotes the compiler’s fixation on Chinese-inspired art, to the exclusion of anything remotely native or stemming from Japanese sources.” (741). The Meika gafu contains two volumes, titled Heaven and Man, corresponding to the Japanese One and Three. While this suggests the printing of Volume Two, or Earth, no copy of such a volume has been found. Each volume begins with a table of contents laying out the different kinds of themes and subjects included followed by the titles of the artists and their paintings, Many of these may have utilized as important source-material in the study of classical painting. The paintings are presented as grand double-spreads of well-known masters interspersed with those by lesser-known figures. The Meika gafu was extremely popular amongst the Japanese public and enjoyed many runs. However, this also meant that over time the production quality steadily declined.

Meika gafu was published by Tōhekido (Eirakuya Tōshirō), a publisher from Nagoya. He commissioned as compiler Mano Tōkei, who had a long association with the leading practitioners of the Kano, Nanga, and Shijō schools. In addition, Tōkei also represented the work of foundational figures such as Taika and Ōkyo.

The Tress Collection possesses both volumes of which one consists of a different kind of paper and is riddled with doodles, most certainly by a previous owner. The volumes also carry advertisements of other books by the publisher Tōhekido. The image displayed here is of that of Mori Sosen’s (1747-1821) “Monkey”, signed and sealed by him. Sosen was well-known for his paintings of the Japanese macaque and there are many examples extant today.

 

Other copies: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; British Museum, London.

Selected Readings:                                                        

Forrer, Matthi, Eirakuya Tōshirō, Publisher at Nagoya: A Contribution to the History of Publishing in 19th century Japan, Vol. 1. Amsterdam, JC Gieben, 1985.

Hillier, Jack, The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Published for Sotheby’s Publications by Philip Wilson Publishers; New York, 1987, p. 741-75. 

Mitchell, Charles H., The Illustrated Books of the Nanga, Maruyama, Shijo and Other Related Schools of Japan: A Biobibliography, Dawson’s Book Shop, 1972, p. 407-09.

Posted by Ayesha Sheth, November 14, 2019

 

YAMAGUCHI SOKEN, 倭人物画譜, EN’O GAFU/圓翁画譜, CA. 1837

Title: En’o gafu 圓翁画譜

Artist: Yamaguchi Soken

Medium: Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper.

Tress Collection, Box 28, Item 17

 

Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-1795) was highly celebrated for his naturalistic renderings of flowers, birds, and animals. Widely admired for his skill as an artist, Ōkyo was also known in his lifetime as an influential mentor to later Japanese-style artists. One of the most well known was Matsumura Goshun 松村 呉春 (1752-1811). Initially, Goshun requested Ōkyo as a mentor; instead, the master welcomed Goshun as an equal and fellow artist. The Murayama-Shijo style has come to refer to the approaches developed by Okyo and Goshun in painting.

Ōkyo’s student, Yamaguchi Soken designed the illustrations in the En’o gafu book as an homage to Ōkyo’s skill and influence. Soken’s illustrations in the book are rendered after Ōkyo’s paintings and show how highly regarded Ōkyo was by later generations.

Soken selected many of Ōkyo’s paintings to be included here, making sketches after Ōkyo’s paintings; these were transferred to woodblocks to be printed on paper. Soken also included a number that show the social contrasts between the commoners and the rich during the period. This book was published in 1837, over 40 years after Ōkyo’s death, during the Great Tenpō Famine.

Similar to Ōkyo and the French realist painter Gustave Courbet, Soken makes the wide range of people illustrated more inclusive and we may wonder whether his selection of individuals deliberately put in contrast the old and feeble, the fishermen with the merchants, and the upper class who were afforded leisure and gluttony during a time of great famine.

 

Other Copies

Yale University

National Library of Israel

Pulverer collection, Freer Gallery of Art

 

Selected Readings

Chibbett, David G. The History of Japanese Printing and Book Illustration. Kodansha International; New York: distributed by Harper & Row, 1977.

Foxwell, Chelsea. Making Modern Japanese-style Painting: Kano Hogai and the Search for Images. University of Chicago Press, 2015.

Hall, John Whitney. The Cambridge History of Japan: Early Modern Japan. Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Hillier. J. The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Published for Sotheby’s Publications by Philip Wilson Publishers; New York, 1987.

Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.

Paine, Robert Treat, and Alexander Coburn Soper. The Art and Architecture of Japan. Yale University Press, 1981.

Sullivan, Michael. The Meeting of Eastern and Western Art (Revised and expanded ed.). 1989.

 

Post by Kemuel Benyehudah

YAMAGUCHI SOKEN 山口素絢, YAMATO JINBUTSU GAFU KŌHEN 倭人物画譜後編, 1804

Otsu-e, volume 1

Artist: Yamaguchi Soken 山口素絢 (1759 – 1818)

Title: Yamato jinbutsu gafu kōhen 倭人物画譜後編 (Album of Japanese People in Painting, 2nd Part )

Date: 11th month, 1804 (Bunka 1)

Description: 3 volumes

Medium:  Woodblock printed; ink on paper; paper cover

Dimensions: 18 cm x 26 cm

Publisher: Hishiya Magobē 菱屋孫兵衛

Gift of Mr. Arthur Tress

Object Number: Box 8, Item 14 https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502576003681

Yamato jinbutsu gafu kōhen is the 3-volume sequel to Yamato jinbutsu gafu (Tress Collection: Box 8, Item 12)which was published in 1799. The series features daily life scenes in Edo-period Japan, illustrated by Yamaguchi Soken (1759 – 1818), and includes people of different occupations and social classes. The first images of each volume of Yamato jinbutsu gafu kōhen are illustrations in the style of Otsu-e, a folk-art tradition which was flourished in Otsu, on the Tōkaidō road. The first featured image here is the first illustration of the first volume; here, a man with a hunting falcon is represented in print as thought painted with rough and quick brushstrokes. It is likely that Soken selected these Otsu-e to pay tribute to this painting tradition.  Scenes of people working are featured throughout this book. In the third volume, the complete process of rice harvesting is depicted, from planting in the early spring to harvesting in the late fall, as may be seen in the selected illustration.

Yamaguchi Soken was actively involved in publishing illustrated books, especially painting albums. He is known to have studied with Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-1795). According to the preface of Yamato jinbutsu gafu, written by Akisato Ritō, Soken was the second son of a kimono merchant in Kyoto. This book, Yamato jinbutsu gafu kōhen, was published in 1804, and he followed this up with Soken gafu sōka no bu (Tress Collection: Box 40, Item 15) in 1806, a title fully devoted to plants. In 1818, his pictures designed for an album of landscapes, Soken sansui gafu (Tress Collection: Box 56, Item 16), was published. Many of Soken’s paintings were collected in his lifetime and many survive in museum collections, but in eighteenth-century Japan, it is likely that his painting albums reached a greater readership. His printed books remained of interest to later artists, as may be seen in Kawanabe Kyōsai’s (1831-1889) Kyōsai gadan (Tress Collection: Box 39, Item 1) where Kyōsai shows a design based upon Soken’s Soken gafu sōka no bu.

Other copies of this book are in Freer Gallery of Art, and Metropolitan Museum of Art,  Museum of Fine Art in Boston, and Waseda University

Selected Reading

Hillier, Jack. 1987. The art of the Japanese book. London: Wilson for Sotheby’s Publications. 532-537

Keyes, Roger S. 2007. Ehon: the artist and the book in Japan. New York, NY: New York Public Library. 140-141

Posted by Tim Zhang, 2019