Aikawa Minwa, Kōrin gashiki 光琳画式 1818

Kōrin gashiki is a book of Ogata Kōrin designs as drawn by Aikawa Minwa. Though there is little biographical information available about Minwa, he is well regarded for his book, Manga hyaku-jo (Sketchbook of One Hundred Women, 1814).[1] [2] His work also appears in an anthology of Kyoto artists, Keijo gaen (A Garden of Pictures by Kyoto Artists, 1814).

Artist: Aikawa Minwa (active 1806–1821), after Ogata Kōrin (1658-1716)
Title: Kōrin gashiki (Kōrin’s painting style)
Date: 1818
Publisher: Kikuya Kihei, Kyoto.
Description: 1 vol. with pouch binding; modern case lined with an illustrated sleeve
Medium: Woodblock printed ink and color on paper; paper covers
Format: hanshibon
Dimensions: 25.6 x 18.2 x 1.1 cm
Location: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Arthur Tress Collection. Box 10, Item 6.
Gift of Arthur Tress

Kōrin gashiki is a book of Ogata Kōrin designs as drawn by Aikawa Minwa. Though there is little biographical information available about Minwa, he is well regarded for his book, Manga hyaku-jo (Sketchbook of One Hundred Women, 1814).[1] [2] His work also appears in an anthology of Kyoto artists, Keijo gaen (A Garden of Pictures by Kyoto Artists, 1814).

With Kōrin gashiki, Minwa joins Sakai Hōitsu and Nagamura Hōchu, two leading Rinpa artists of the nineteenth century, in their use of woodblock print books to disseminate and revive Kōrin designs and the Rinpa aesthetic for a new generation, while at the same time claiming roles in the succession of artists.[3] That Minwa’s book follows Hoitsu’s Kōrin hyakuzu (One Hundred Paintings by Kōrin, 1815)[4] and Hōchū’s Kōrin gafu (Album of Kōrin Pictures, 1802)[5] indicates Kōrin’s renewed popularity and a demand for his work.

These books were also intended for other artists to learn from and emulate the Rinpa style. Rinpa (school of Kōrin) was not a family school in the traditional sense, but an aesthetic carried through generations by artists who appreciated his work. Hōitsu referred to the group of artists working in the Kōrin style as the Ogata Lineage, while the term Rinpa came into use in the Meiji period. Kōrin, in turn, found his inspiration in seventeenth-century artists Tawaraya Sōtatsu and Hon’ami Kōetsu. While their influence is apparent in Kōrin’s deft brushwork, details are further simplified, perspective is often abstracted, large areas are flattened with gold leaf or patterning, and his palette intensely colored. We see these characteristics become more pronounced with each generation of Rinpa artists.

Many of the images in Minwa’s book employ other artistic techniques characteristic of Rinpa, such as tarashikomi (“dripping in” of wet into wet) and mokkotsu (“boneless” drawing, without outlines). Motifs common to Rinpa are elegantly represented in this book as well, with an emphasis on the natural world: waves, morning glories, poppies, chrysanthemum, blossoming trees, sparrows, plovers, puppies, rabbits, horses, and monkeys; as well as some figurative scenes from classical literature, and Jurōjin, one of the seven lucky gods, shown with a crane, both symbols of longevity.[6] While Minwa’s drawings appear effortless, and recall the style of Hōchū’s Kōrin gafu,[7] his deer are rendered in a less painterly fashion[8]—perhaps in an attempt at mokkotsu, or a developing style—producing a curious hiccup in the line that leads from Sōtatsu to Sekka.

Detail from a scroll by Tawaraya Sōtatsu (painter) and Hon’ami Kōetsu (calligrapher), 1610s.
Detail from a screen by Ogata Kōrin, early 18th c.
Woodblock print from Kōrin gafu by Nagamura Hōchu, 1802.
Woodblock print from Ōson gafu by Sakai Hōitsu, 1817.
Woodblock print from Kōrin gashiki by Aikawa Minwa, 1818.
Detail of Meadow at Kasuga from Momoyogusa by Kamisaka Sekka, 1909.


[1] Hillier, J, and Langley Iddins. The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Sotheby’s Publications, 1987, p. 665.

[2] Box 23, item 18.

[3] Hillier, J, and Langley Iddins. The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Sotheby’s Publications, 1987.

[4] Box 14, item 13

[5] Box 8, item 11 contains a newer edition from 1895.

[6] Carpenter, John T. Designing Nature: the Rinpa Aesthetic In Japanese Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art , 2012.

[7] Strangely enough, the sleeve that lines the case for this book is an image from Hōchū’s Kōrin gafu! Perhaps their cases got mixed up.

[8] Hillier, J, and Langley Iddins. The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Sotheby’s Publications, 1987.


Other collections:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Smithsonian Libraries
The British Museum
National Diet Library
The Gerhard Pulverer Collection

Further reading:
Carpenter, John T. Designing Nature: the Rinpa Aesthetic In Japanese Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art , 2012.
Hillier, J, and Langley Iddins. The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Sotheby’s Publications, 1987.


Posted by Catherine Gontarek, 23 March 2020

Anonymous, Woodblock for Shaka hassō monogatari 釈迦八相物語, [1666]


Woodblock for Shaka hassō monogatari 釈迦八相物語

Edo period (1603-1868), [1666]


22.3 x 35.1 cm



Shaka hassō monogatari 釈迦八相物語

Volume 4 (of 8)

Edo period (1603-1868), [1666]

Woodblock printed book; ink on paper

25.5 x 18.2 cm

The ability to capture the hand of the calligrapher and artist alike made woodblock the preferred printing medium in Edo-period Japan. The raw material was key to this process: high quality cherrywood (
yamazakura) blocks were supple enough to be carved without splintering or fraying yet durable enough to stand up to hand printing impressions that could number in the thousands. Obtaining this raw material constituted a significant challenge. Trees in climates too cold or too hot produced wood that splintered easily. The wood needed to be prepared through a seasoning process before being used for printing blocks. Good blocks, like this one, were well worth the significant investment and effort, and skilled carvers copied layouts to transform planks and capture the lyrical and expressive qualities of the brush.

The Tress collection includes a block made for two folios from the Shaka hassō monogatari (Tale of the Eight Phases of Shakyamuni), first printed in 1666. The book tells the story of the eight phases of the life of Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha. The collection also includes a woodblock for folios from the fourth volume of this title, offering the rare opportunity to compare block and printed book. The scene shown in both is an episode from the fourth phase of Shakyamuni’s journey, when he renounced the world to become an ascetic. One should be keen to note, however, how the woodblock differs from the opening. Woodblock printing required the carver to render the designs in reverse so that when printed, the text and image would be right way around. Books bound in the pouch or bag binding technique (fukurotoji), like this one, were made by folding sheets of paper and binding the cut edge in the interior of the book. The image showing Shakyamuni’s renunciation is carved on the right side of the block and the text for the preceding page on the left side; when printed, the sheet of paper would be folded and bound, with the two parts of the woodblock providing content for the verso and recto of the folio sheet. This woodblock is also carved on its reverse side, but the text there is from another volume from the same set.


Woodblocks were mobile objects in the Edo period, frequently traded and sold amongst publishers, with each new owner gaining full publishing rights for the block and its contents. This was an advantageous arrangement for both sellers and buyers: sellers could recoup precious capital while buyers could obtain second-hand blocks to expand their publishing repertoire or capitalize on an unexpected hit.


The survival of this woodblock in excellent condition is remarkable. As wooden objects, blocks are susceptible to degradation as well as damage by insects. Many blocks were victim to the fires that were an all-too-common occurrence in cities. Furthermore, the price of high quality cherrywood often led publishers and block carvers to repurpose existing woodblocks. Planing a woodblock down would destroy the image but provide a new blank slate, allowing one block to live several lives and be part of multiple different works before ultimately becoming too thin and fragile for additional printing.

Nicholas Purgett

Selected Readings:

Hioki, Kazuko. “Japanese  Printed Books of the Edo Period (1603-1867): History and Characteristics of Block-Printed Books.” Journal of the Institute of Conservation 32, no. 1 (2009): 79–101.

Salter, Rebecca. Japanese Woodblock Printing. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2001.

Sasaki, Shiro. “Materials and Techniques.” In The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints., edited by Amy Reigle Newland, 1:323–50. Amsterdam: Hotei, 2005.


Asai Chū 浅井忠, Tōsei fūzoku gojūban uta awase 当世風俗五十番歌合, 1907

Artist: Asai Chū 浅井忠 (Japanese,1856 – 1907)

Author: Ikebe Tōen 池邊 籐園 (Japanese, 1861? – 1923)

Title: Tōsei fūzoku gojūban uta awase shita 当世風俗五十番歌合 下

Medium: Full color woodblock book print; ink and color on paper

Publisher: Tokyo: Yoshikawa Hanshichi

Gift of Arthur Tress. Box 33, Item 22, 1 of 2.

Tōsei fūzoku gojūban uta awase, or Fifty Modern Genre Scenes Compared in Verses, is a whimsical, comic, tongue-in-cheek commentary on the societal trends during the modernized Meiji period. It has two volumes containing fifty uta awase composed by a close friend of Asai Chū, Ikebe Tōen. Uta-awase is a form of poetry contest in which each poem contains two competing parts. In Tōsei fūzoku gojūban uta awase, each poem consists of two verses juxtapositioning descriptions of individuals engaged in diverse occupations in traditional Japanese style compared to those presented in modernized Western style. Each pair of verses is followed by a “judgment” prose that declares who was the winner and why. On the other side of Ikebe Tōen’s poems are Asai Chū’s comic satirical illustrations of the contestants. The participants hail from various backgrounds within the shokunin or craftsman class, namely teachers, factory workers, photographers, and so on. The style of Asai Chū’s illustration is said to be influenced by the German satirical magazine Simplicissimus (1896–1967; hiatus 1944–54). Tōsei fūzoku gojūban uta awase is Asai Chū’s best known printed book design.

Asai Chū (1856 – 1907) is known as one of the most prominent Western-style (yōga) painters and teachers in the early Meiji period. Born to a samurai-class family, he was formally trained in the traditional Japanese flower-and-bird painting style. He then moved to Tokyo and became one of the first students at the government established Western-style art focused Technical Fine Arts School. Similar to most of his contemporaries, he studied Western-style oil painting under Italian painter Antonio Fontanesi. An established painter and art educator by 1900, Asai Chū was sent to France to study the techniques of the Impressionism school by the Japanese government. Upon his return two years later, he continued teaching and founded the Kansai Bijutsu-in (the Kansai Arts Institute.) Throughout his life, he taught numerous painters and print-makers who later become prominent characters in the Japanese art world, including Yasui Sōtarō and Umehara Ryūzaburō.


Other copies of this book series:

The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, Freer Gallery of Art (vol. 1-2)

San Francisco Public Library (vol. 1-2)

Iwase Bunko Library, Nishio City (vol. 1-2)

Portland Art Museum (vol. 1-2)

Ravicz Collection, Chiba City Museum of Art (vol. 1-2)


Selected Readings:

Hillier, Jack Ronald. The Japanese picture book: a selection from the Ravicz Collection. Harry N Abrams Inc, 1991, pp. 124-125.

Hillier, Jack Ronald. The art of the Japanese book. London: Published for Sotheby’s Publications by Philip Wilson Publishers; New York, 1987, pp. 996-997.

Merritt, Helen. Modern Japanese woodblock prints: the early years. University of Hawaii Press, 1990.


Posted by Yuqi Zhao

November 19th, 2019

Bunsai Madaki 文齋万陀伎, Nagasaki miyage 長崎土産 1847

Artist: Bunsai Madaki

Title:  Nagasaki miyage 長崎土産 (Souvenirs of Nagasaki)

Date: ca. 1847

Medium: woodblock printed

Location: Kislak Center for Special Collections – Arthur Tress Collection. Box 52, Item 11. See link.

See digital images here.

Publisher: Yamatoya Yūpei

Gift of Arthur Tress

Bunsai Madaki’s Nagasaki miyage (1847) presents images that suggest how much the Japanese had a kind of voyeuristic curiosity towards the “other”[1] during a period of limited contact with the European world. With 2 single-page and 14 double-page illustrations, the volume represents a wide variety of scenes in which both Chinese as well as Dutch people living in Nagasaki are show, but it also includes pictures of ships, animals and other foreign curiosities. The first illustration presents a map of Nagasaki bay, where we can see Chinese and Dutch ships as well as the contours of the Dutch trading post on the island of Deshima. Another impression of this title, held at Waseda University, includes text along with these illustrations; however, the volume shown here does not include this commentary. [2]

Special attention deserves to be given to the double-page illustrations representing both the “OLIFANT” (“Elephant”) and the “Holland vrouw” (“Dutch women”). Text on the same page tells us that the elephant on the left page was brought to Japan in 1810 by the “red hair people,” as the Dutch came to be called. The Dutch woman on the right page has been identified as Mimi de Villeneuve, the nineteen year-old wife of Carl Hubert de Villeneuve, a Dutch painter who came to Nagasaki in 1829 and taught the Japanese painter Kawahara Keiga in Western painting techniques. [3] Commentary highlights the “almost transparent skin,” “deep eyes” and “long nose” of the woman, seen as typical generic features of Dutch women at the time.[4] The portrait of Mimi exemplifies how much she, as a kind of “fetishized other,” appealed to the imagination of both the Japanese artist and viewers. Mimi never set foot on the island of Japan, since she was forced to leave Japan immediately, but her image endured in Japanese visual culture. Her contemporary, Titia Bergsma, became even better known.[5]

The artist Bunsai Madaki was closely related as one of its masters to the publishing house Yamatoya, and this firm flourished from the mid-eighteenth-century until the late-nineteenth-century in Nagasaki.[6] By combining the principles of Western art with Japanese printing techniques, Bunsai Madaki contributed to the development of Japanese woodblock printing in Nagasaki.

Another impression of this manuscript is in the Waseda University (Tokyo). Other volumes can be found in the National Library of Australia (Canberra), the Bristol Museum Galleries Archives (Bristol) and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

Selected Readings

  • Charles R. Boxer, Jan Compagnie in Japan, 1600–1850: An Essay on the Cultural, Artistic and Scientific Influence Exercised by the Hollanders in Japan from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Centuries (Springer, 2013).
  • Gary P. Leupp, Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 (A&C Black, 2003).
  • Michael L. Browne, “Portraits of Foreigners by Kawahara Keiga,” Ars Orientalis, Vol. 15 (1985), pp. 31-45.
  • Simon James Bytheway, “The Arrival of the ‘Modern’ West in Yokohama: Images of the Japanese Experience, 1859–1899” in Life in Treaty Port China and Japan, Donna Brunero and Stephanie Villalta Puig (eds.) (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), pp. 247-267.

Posted by Hilda Groen

November 15, 2019

[1] Simon James Bytheway, “The Arrival of the “Modern” West in Yokohama: Images of the Japanese Experience, 1859–1899” in Life in Treaty Port China and Japan, Donna Brunero and Stephanie Villalta Puig (eds.) (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), pp. 247-267.

[2] See

[3] Michael L. Browne, “Portraits of Foreigners by Kawahara Keiga”,” Ars Orientalis, Vol. 15 (1985), p. 34.

[4] Gary P. Leupp, Interracial intimacy in Japan: western men and Japanese women, 1543-1900 (A&C Black, 2003), pp. 114-115,

[5] Unlike Mimi, Titia would stay in Japan, however, after a few months she was forced to leave Japan and would never see her husband again. Despite, her relatively short stay would make a huge impression on the Japanese as she was represented on many Japanese art and souvenirs. For a study on Titia”s life see René Bersma, Titia, the First Western Woman in Japan (Leiden: Hotei, 2003).

[6] Charles R. Boxer, Jan Compagnie in Japan, 1600–1850: an essay on the cultural, artistic and scientific influence exercised by the Hollanders in Japan from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries (Springer, 2013) p. 93.

Furuya Kōrin 古谷紅麟, Kōrin moyō 光琳模様, 1907

Furuya Kōrin 紅麟 (1875-1910)

Kōrin moyō 光琳模様

Volume 2 (of 2)

Publisher: Unsōdō, Kyoto

Meiji period (1868-1912), 1907

Woodblock printed book; ink and color on paper

25 x 18 cm


Kōrin moyō is another example of a pattern book produced in the late Meiji period. While the sleek style and naturalistic motifs of Art Nouveau are readily apparent in most zuan, pattern artists were also influenced by Rinpa style. A revival of this aesthetic in the Meiji period, led by Kamisaka Sekka, further modernized the already highly stylized Rinpa motifs, while still referencing classical Japanese literature and poetry. Furuya Kōrin, who studied with Sekka, took his name from Ogata Kōrin, from whom the name Rinpa is derived.

In Kōrin moyō, Furuya Kōrin demonstrates his mastery of common Rinpa motifs. In this opening he combines a depiction of a persimmon tree with grape vine and morning glories. In his design for many of the page spreads, he utilizes an upper register for a simple pattern that complements the lower more intricately printed scene. While it is not unusual for numerous patterns to be grouped together in zuan books, Kōrin works the space to his advantage and ours. The thoughtfully composed pages help slow the pace, allowing the viewer to reflect on the subtle relationships that emerge among the composition, color, and subject.

Catherine Gontarek

Selected Readings:

Carpenter, John T. 2012. Designing Nature: The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Saunders, Rachel. 2008. “Patterns of Identity: Kimono Pattern Books in the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.” Andon 83: 49–57.

Wood, Donald A., and Yuko Ikeda, eds. 2003. Kamisaka Sekka : Rinpa no keishō. Kyoto: Kyoto Kokuritsu Kindai Bijutsukan.




Haruna Shigeharu 春名繁春, Fugaku shinkei 富嶽真景 1894

Artist: Haruna Shigeharu 春名繁春 (1847-1913)

Title: Fugaku shinkei 富嶽真景

Date of Publication: 1894, Publisher: Gunshojō, Shimomura Shotaro

Medium: Woodblock printed, ink and color on paper.

Dimensions: 18.5 x 25.1 x 0.8 cm (Pulverer)

Gift of: Tress, Arthur (donor) (Tress Collection copy)

Kislak Center for Special Collections – Arthur Tress Collection. Box 45, Item 21.

The Fugaku shinkei 富嶽真景 (True Pictures of Mt. Fuji) is created by the artist Haruna Shigeharu 春名繁春. Haruna Shigeharu was known as a painter of Kutani porcelain. The book is made with a fukurotoji binding but in a horizontal (yokobon) format with four hold binding. After the first four pages, additional folios have been supported a sheet of a thin paper inside the folded page, likely a later conservation intervention. In addition to the bizarre construction, page 5 does not have an image on the back, and this is consistent throughout the book for the remainder of the 32 images. The leaves after page 5 then transition to a butterfly binding.

The colophon reports the book is a single volume, complete (zen).

Artwork Analysis:

The thirty-two images show Mt. Fuji from a single perspective, and while Mt. Fuji is the subject for this book, the book does much more. The character of the mountain is not just defined by its iconic shape. Yet while the shape is important, so that the viewer understands where they are in Japan when observing the mountain, the book is a conversation between the mountain, the seasons and weather, and the observer. The view of Mt. Fuji as represented in the book is presented from the south, as though the observer is standing south of the mountain looking towards the north. Today, this view can be seen from the Shinkansen (bullet train) after the train departs from Mishima Station and towards . This view can be identified by the way that Mt. Fuji’s iconic second bump which can be observed from this angle.

The book was advertised in 1895 in The Japan Weekly Mail where it was described:

“Fugaku shinkyo, or Views of Fuji, is the title of a little album containing no less than 32 sketches of the summit of the peerless mountain, in all weathers and at all seasons. The exquisite symmetry and graceful shape of Fujiyama evoke a kind of reverential love in Japanese bosoins. Never, we believe, has any natural object received such tender worship or played such a large part in the art of a nation. Mr. Haruna Shigeharu, the painter of these 32 pictures, must have made the mountain a perpetual study. It is worthy of such attention, and the public will be grateful for this result of his labour of love.”

I realized that Fugaku shinkei appears to be simple in its physical presentation, but the more a reader spends time with the book the more details are exposed to the reader. It is much like when one sits with the view of the mountain in their visual field, no matter for a moment or an hour, the viewer will have a different experience along with a different perception of the space. For example, if a reader looks closely, there are detailed impressions of characters in the top left of the pages. But the book reveals more when it is observed with raking light. Details appear that contour the shapes in the landscape, this gives a deeper definition and texture to the space. The pages are more three dimensional than they initially appear. Though I can only speculate now about the artist’s intention, I believe the artist (and his collaborators, the carvers and printers) intended for this subtle detail to be discovered over time, much like how the subject, Mt. Fuji, changes over time in different weather and seasons, often in ways not noticeable or abrupt. This suggests to me that the book is observational by nature.

Haruna Shigeharu must have spent a considerable amount of time observing Mt. Fuji from the southern perspective to show such a variety of images of the same place. While the view is the same, it is always in flux, and while the mountain indexes as an icon in our consciousness, in reality, nature is what indexes our perception of the mountain in the moment. Thus, this is why a book with the “same” thirty-two images of Mt. Fuji can be so complex and polarizing.

Other Copies of the Book: 

Selected Readings: 

Posted by Derek Rodenbeck

April 15th, 2020

Hasegawa Keika 長谷川契華, Kyōka zuan 京華図案, 1905

Hasegawa Keika 長谷川契華 (act. 1892-1905) 

Kyōka zuan 京華図案

Volumes 1-2

Publisher: Unsōdō, Kyoto

Meiji period (1868-1912), 1905

Woodblock printed book; ink and color on paper

24.4 x 16.5 cm

Kyōka zuan belongs to a category of pattern books that was published in the Meiji period primarily to be used in textile production or for ceramic and lacquerware decoration. These books developed from hinagatabon of the Edo period such as the one shown in the previous entry; however, zuan often featured both patterns coming from the traditional repertoire and newly imported trends. One example of the latter in Kyōka zuan is the exquisite design of peacock feathers. Like the earlier hinagatabon, this two-volume book could be appreciated for its aesthetic value, as much as for any practical application.


Keika’s clever juxtaposition of patterns on this page is as masterful as the designs themselves. On the right, yellow tachibana oranges float in the swirls of water, which resonate with the blue clouds on the facing page. The pastel colors of the stream and the autumn bellflowers (rindō) below are countered by the bold black ground with stripes and bright roundels. Since many of the designs were intended to appear on kimono, they often refer to typical dyeing and embroidery techniques such as shibori (tie-dye) or sashiko (stitching used for both decoration and reinforcement of clothes). In the opening shown, the roundels are decorated with a distinctive kanoko shibori pattern that is created on fabric by tying it in small pinches before dyeing. 


The Kyoto publisher Unsōdō produced this volume; this firm played a key role in producing and popularizing zuan books and journals. Established in 1891 as a publishing house specializing in art books, Unsōdō capitalized on the developing genre and fueled its further creation and distribution.


Maria Puzyreva

Selected Readings:

Johnson, Scott. 2014. “New Colours, a New Profession & a New Idea: Zuan Enrich Kyoto Design Books.” Andon 97 (September): 117-28.

———. 2016. “Zuan Pattern Books: The Glory Years.” Andon 100: 5–75.

Yokoya, Kenichirō, and Mikio Matsuo. 2008. Zuanchō In Kyoto: Textile Design Books for the Kimono Trade. Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Libraries.


Hasegawa Myōtei 長谷川妙貞, Nyohitsu Kasugano 女筆嘉須賀濃 1730

Calligrapher: Hasegawa Myōtei 長谷川妙貞 (Japanese, year unknown)

Illustration calligrapher: Nakamura Sankinshi 中村 三近子 (Japanese, 1671 – 1741),

Illustrator: Sōsekishi 漱石子 (Japanese, year unknown)

TitleNyohitsu kasugano shita (女筆嘉須賀濃 下)

Date: 1730 (享保15年)

Medium: Black and white woodblock printed book; ink on paper

Publisher: Kyoto – Uemura Tōjirō 植村藤治郎, Edo – Uemura Tōzaburō 植村藤三郎, Ōsaka – Uemura Tōzaburō 植村藤三郎

Gift of Arthur Tress. Box 27, Item 11:

Nyohitsu kasugano shita is the third volume of a three-volume set designed to show Edo-period women how to write elegant calligraphy in three different styles. It features examples by Hasegawa Myōtei, a highly regarded woman calligrapher, and belongs to the genre known as nyohitsu (女筆) or calligraphy primers for women. These texts often contained sample letters for use throughout the year and included motifs specific to the season as well as to popular festivals. This volume includes letters with seasonal motifs from winter to early spring, spanning from greetings on the Double Ninth Festival and the Lunar New Year to the first month of the year. It also contains sample letters to offer congratulations on the occasion called kamiogi, an auspicious ceremony when children have their first haircut, as well as to thank match-makers, along with others.

The Tress collection title includes one of the several names used by the woman calligrapher, Hasegawa Myōtei. She became famous for her elegant style. In this book, we can see Myōtei’s accomplished hand and admire her rendering of extreme ligatures between characters as delicate diagonal lines that rhythmically cut across the pages as well as her great flair in the leftward and upward motion of her script. The artist who composed the illustration on the second page of the book, Sōsekishi, may also have been a woman, but little can be determined about her life from extant sources.

The illustration by Sōsekishi on the interior of the front cover includes a text written by Nakamura Sankinshi that relays an anecdote about Fujiwara no Sukemasa, a well-known Heian period noble and calligrapher. While on his return to Kyoto from his post in Kyushu, Sukemasa encountered several days of storms. One night the god of Ōmishima island appeared in his dream, telling him that he sent the storm so that he could ask Sukemasa to stay and write the motto for the Ōyamazumi shrine. After granting the god’s request, Sukemasa was able to return to Kyoto safely. Sukemasa is shown here writing the calligraphy while on a boat floating in the river. This story was likely chosen to show the benefit of developing a fine hand to female readers.

The title for this volume, Nyohitsu kasugano shita, is taken from the exterior title and it may be the third part added to a two-volume book work Nyohitsu kasugano 女筆春日野. According to the database of women’s calligraphy manuals produced by the library of the Nara Educational University, this volume is particularly rare.

Selected Readings:

 Tomoko Sakomura, Nyohitsu shinan shū 女筆指南集 (see commentary tab):

女筆手本解題, 江戸中期 (see number 82):

奈良教育大学教育資料館所蔵, 女筆手本類解説:


きみか世 : 女筆. 下 / [長谷川妙貞] [書]:

Chiyomigusa 千代見草, Vol. 1, FSC-GR-780.453.1-3:

Yuqi Zhao, October 5, 2019

Hatta Koshū 八田古秀, Koshū gafu 古秀画譜 1824

Artist: Hatta Koshū 八田古秀 (Japanese, 1770-1822)

Title: Koshū gafu 古秀画譜

Date: 1824 (Bunsei 7)

Medium: Woodblock print, 25.65 x 17.9cm

Publisher: Kyoto: Yoshida Shinbē

Gift of Arthur Tress, Arthur Tress Collection of Japanese Illustrated Books, Box 8, Item 16

Koshū gafu, which translates to “Koshū’s Album,” is a collection of thirty prints illustrated by Koshū Hatta, a painter who studied directly with Maruyama Ōkyo, now regarded as one of the founding figures of the Maruyama-Shijō style. Hatta’s illustrations exhibit the naturalism promoted in the style: the dynamism of people in motion or birds in flight; the fine strokes of an animal’s fur; the reserved but pointed deployment of colors in swatches to connote vast spaces like the sky and the ocean. In these ways Koshū gafu is filled a selection of intimate portrayals of humans, animals, and landscapes alike. Treating animals and landscapes with the same dignity as one would give to a person, Hatta regards his subjects with a tone of reverence. Some animals and plants are zoomed in and painted in larger proportions than our normal perception of them, while in several landscape illustrations we find a small, lone human figure, made to emphasize the vastness of the landscape in which they are depicted, intimating notions of the sublime. That a publisher was willing to give Hatta the space of a selected collection, or gafu, testifies to his appeal and prestige at the time, though Hatta’s artistic style certainly extends beyond the confines of a thirty-work collection. His hanging scroll illustration “Seiobo And Sennin,” a more formally representational work, is currently in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

According to the British Museum, Koshū gafu was first published in 1812, and it was reissued in 1814 and 1824. This signals its great popularity among readers. Arthur Tress’s collection includes two copies of Koshū gafu from the 1824 reissue, in different stages of wear (see Box 8, item 8 for the other copy). Both copies have the original cover with repeating octagonal patterns, though the copy exhibited is at a generally better condition, preserving more of the original colors. The copy featured here also includes what appear to be stamps of small, red circles on every illustration, either at the lower left-hand or lower right-hand side, circles which do not appear in the other copy. The exact purpose of these red circles is unknown, though they are not an uncommon appearance in other Japanese illustrated books of the time.

Other copies of Koshū gafu can be found at the British Museum (1812 edition), the Boston Book Company (presumed 1812 edition), and the Pulverer Collection (1812 edition).

Selected Readings

Jack Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book (London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd., 1987).

Jack Hillier, The Uninhibited Brush: Japanese Art in the Shijō Style (Hugh M. Moss Ltd., 1974).

Posted by Kelly Liu, Autumn 2019

Kamisaka Sekka 神坂 雪佳, Chō senshu 蝶千種 1904



Artist: Kamisaka Sekka

Title: Chō senshu, “One Thousand Butterflies”

Date: 1904

Publisher: Unsōdo

Description: 1 of 2 volumes

Medium: Woodblock printed, multiple colors on paper

Format: hanshibon; gajōsō binding; printed on one side, accordion fold

Dimensions: 25 x 18.1 x 1.7 cm

Location: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Arthur Tress Collection. Box 63, Item 11  

Gift of Arthur Tress 

Chō senshu is a prime example of Kamisaka Sekka’s ability to explore a traditional theme through design. From representational to abstract, a series of printed butterflies are brought to life with Sekka’s experiments in shape, color, and composition.

Sekka was one of the last great masters of the Rinpa style of painting, who applied his artistry to the modern period’s burgeoning field of design. As a designer, educator, and leader in the arts community of Kyoto, he dedicated his life to elevating the decorative arts to the status of fine art.[1]

Sekka’s training as a painter and skill as a designer is evident in his woodblock printed books and varied crafts such as ceramics, lacquered boxes, wall panels, and textiles. He deftly integrated a modern sensibility with his commitment to the traditional ideals of the Rinpa style.

[1] Kanzaka Sekka, Yūko Ikeda, and Donald Alan Wood. Kanzaka Sekka : Rinpa No Keishō = Kamisaka Sekka : Rimpa Master. [Kyoto]: Kyōto Kokuritsu Kindai Bijutsukan, 2003.

Other collections

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Wilmington University Library
Princeton University Library
Yale University Library
Harvard University
East Carolina University, Health Science Library
Duke University Libraries
Cleveland Public Library
Berry College Memorial Library
Simpson University Library
The British Library, St. Pancras

Further reading

Kanzaka Sekka: Rinpa No Keishō = Kamisaka Sekka: Rimpa Master. Kanzaka Sekka, Yūko Ikeda, and Donald Alan Wood. [Kyoto]: Kyōto Kokuritsu Kindai Bijutsukan, 2003.

The Art of the Japanese Book. Hillier, J. and Langley Iddins. London: Sotheby’s Publications, 1987.


Posted by Catherine Gontarek
November 21, 2019