Artist: Kawamura Bunpō 河村文鳳 (1779 – 1821)

Title: 文鳳山水画譜 (Bunpō’s album of landscape paintings)

Date: Bunsei 7 (1824)

Medium: Woodblock print; ink and color on paper; paper cover.

Gift of Arthur Tress, Arthur Tress Collection Box 55, Item 20 (https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502846003681)

Kawamura Bunpō 河村文鳳 (1779-1821) was a Japanese landscape painter of the late Edo Period, born in Yamashiro Province, in modern day Kyoto Prefecture. He was best known for his illustrations of Chinese style landscapes (sansui), as can be seen in other published works such as Bunpō gafu (1807). He was a student of the artist Ganku 岸駒 (1756-1839) According to a postscript in the book by Bunpō’s student Kawamura Kihō (1778–1852) Bunpō sansui gafu was compiled at the request of Bunpō’s publisher Yoshidaya Shinbē.[1] The work, which consists of thirty pages of landscapes of Chinese settings, also includes quotidian scenes of daily work and life as well as poems by the poet Rai San’yō. Fellow artist Tanomura Chikuden once praised Bunpō’s fluid lines and ability to draw human figures, while his landscape paintings are known for their use of heavy brush strokes and thick contours.

Bunpō sansui gafu shows a variety of Chinese landscape paintings, and the renderings of his brush lines to provide contour and depth is striking. Human figures are generally marginal or de-emphasized in the composition; when they do it appear, it is usually figures at work, leading horses or ox, riding down rivers on boats, or simply walking in pairs or alone down winding paths or snowy landscapes. Both summer and winter are depicted in the series, and scenes of towns covered in snow exemplify Bunpō’s dramatic use of dark contours and color. These elements are particularly notable in the British Museum’s copy of the work, which preserves the striking color contrasts and sharp lines characteristic of the art.

Ellis Tinios links Bunpō’s interest in a variety of styles of art, particularly Chinese style painting, to the artistic and literary conventions of early nineteenth-century Kyoto, in which a variety of influences were available. According to him, Bunpō was himself perceived as an unusually eclectic artist, with an 1850 account stating that “took from all schools to develop his own unique style.”[2] He had a wide variety of associates, including the writer Ueda Akinari (1734-1809) and the Confucian scholar and poet Rai San’yō (1780-1831). Alongside his landscape, Bunpō was known for his artistic compositions that were didactic in intent (gafu) and for readers interested in painting and composition. While Bunpō is not as well known today as similar landscape artists of his period, his versatility in a wide variety of artistic genres and styles and ability to move between different conventions can still be seen in his work.

Other information on this copy: The book has information possibly identifying the previous owner that says “Mikawa Province, Hazu-gun, Nishio Han, Tokuda Jirō, Dental Specialist” (三河幡豆郡西尾藩 徳田次郎歯専).



Ellis Tinios. Kawamura Bumpō: Artist of Two Worlds. Leeds, U.K: University Gallery Leeds, 2004.

Kobayashi Tadashi and Jun’ichi Ōkubo 小林忠 大久保純一. Ukiyo-e no kansh kihon chishiki 浮世     絵の鑑賞基礎知識[The fundamentals of appreciating Ukiyo-E] Tokyo: Shibundo, 1994.

Other Collections  

Pulverer Collection. Bunpō sansui gafu 文鳳山水画譜, Accession no. FSC-GR-780.284, https://pulverer.si.edu/node/421/title/1

Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bunpō sansui gafu 文鳳山水画譜, Accession no. 2013.662, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/78583?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Kawamura+Bunp%c5%8d&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=1

British Museum of Art Bunpō sansui gafu 文鳳山水画譜, no. 1959,0509,0.6.2 https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/A_1959-0509-0-6-2

[1] Ellis Tinios. Bunpō sansui gafu 文鳳山水画譜, FSC-GR-780.284 https://pulverer.si.edu/node/421/title/1

[2] Ellis Tinios. Kawamura Bumpō: Artist of Two Worlds. (Leeds UK: University Gallery Leeds, 2004): 10.

Posted by Patrick Carland

KAWAMURA KIHŌ 河村琦鳳,KIHŌ GAFU 琦鳳画譜, 1826-1827

Impression 8. 15, No. 19 (Figure 1)

Artist: Kawamura Kihō 河村琦鳳 (1778-1852)

Title Kihō’s Picture Album

Date: after 1826 (Bunsei 9)

Medium: Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper

Dimension: 25.9 x 17.8 x 1.1 cm

Publisher: Yoshida Shinbē 吉田新兵衛 (Bunchōdō 文徴堂)

Arthur Tress Collection, Box 8, Item 15

See digital images



Impression 8.7, No. 31

Artist: Kawamura Kihō 河村琦鳳 (1778-1852)

Title Kihō’s Picture Album

Date: 1827 (Bunsei 10)

Medium: Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper

Dimension: 25.9 x 17.8 x 1.1 cm

Publisher: Yoshida Shinbē 吉田新兵衛  (Bunchōdō 文徴堂)

Arthur Tress Collection, Box 8, Item 7



Impression 28.22, No. 12

Artist: Kawamura Kihō河村琦鳳 (1778-1852)

TitleKihō’s Picture Album

Date: after 1826 (Bunsei 9)

Medium: Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper

Dimension: 25.9 x 17.8 x 1.1 cm

Publisher: Yoshida Shinbē 吉田新兵衛 (Bunchōdō 文徴堂)

Arthur Tress Collection, Box 28, Item 22



Kihō gafu, a picture album by Kawamura Kihō, contains 30 double-page illustrations of flowers, animals, rural landscapes, and human figures in everyday life scenes. Human figures are shown enjoying bucolic tranquility and revealing a free spirit. Subjects are depicted with ink lines in a calligraphic manner and embellished with lucid pale colors, evoking a Chinese painting style. In some illustrations, the artist abandoned the color-filling technique but applied colors directly to define the shape of the subjects, offering a painterly effect. Kihō gafu also features many inventive compositions, in which the single sheets not only stand as independent scenes but also can be unified as compelling double-page illustrations. In one opening, for example, a bough ascends from the right bottom corner in a diagonal way and traverses the central division into the opposite sheet, in which a little bird is shown hanging itself down from a branch and pecking the red fruits (fig. 1). The bough, rendered with powerful brushwork, is printed so skillfully that it looks like an ink painting, and the little bird is depicted in a delicate manner, balancing the boldness of the bough as well as its visual weight.

Kyoto-based artist Kawamura Kihō was the adopted son of Kawamura Bunpō. Kihō followed in the style of his teacher, Bunpō, adopting his distinctive approach to Chinese literati painting. Many of Kihō’s illustrations thus echo Bunpō’s designs. Kihō gafu was published by Yoshida Shinbē from his shop, the Bunchōdō文徴堂, located in Kyoto. The three titles in the Tress collection include different dates in the prefaces, postscripts, and colophons, demonstrating that these titles were produced over several years.  For example, in book 8.7, the preface includes a date of Bunsei 7 (1824), the postscript is dated Bunsei 9 (1826), and the colophon to Bunsei 10 (1827); thus, the earliest date we can give to this printing is 1827. The publication dates of the other two impressions in the collection are unknown, as they do not have colophon dates, but they cannot precede Bunsei 9 (1826) given the date of the postscript included in both impressions. The three impressions of Kihō gafu also display different color and shade patterns, signifying an alteration of color woodblocks in the course of reprinting. In comparison with other two copies, the impression 8.7 seems to have a more romanticized and naturalized palette, including a green color with a warmer tone, the skin color with a lighter orange hue, and the addition of rose pink. Further research will need to be conducted to understand more about what the differences in color and hue might indicate between these three impressions.


Other Impressions

The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C

Smithsonian Libraries, Washington D.C

The Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY

The New York Public Library, New York, NY

The British Museum, London


Selected Reading

Hiller, Jack. Introduction to Japanese Prints: 300 Years of Albums and Books. London: British Museum Publications Ltd., 1980.

Tinios, Ellis. “Kawamura Bumpō: The Artist and his Books.” Print Quarterly, vol. 11, no. 3 (1994): 256-91.



Posted by Aria Diao

Nov. 14, 2019


Artist: Kawanabe Kyōsai 河鍋暁斎 (1831-1889)

Title: Kyōsai hyakki gadan 暁斎百鬼画談

Date of Publication: 1889, Publisher: Inokuchi Matsunosuke 井口松之助

Medium: Woodblock printed, gajōsō accordion-style, ink on paper.

Dimensions: 21.2 x 12.2 x 1.6 cm

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

Kislak Center for Special Collections – Arthur Tress Collection. Box 29, Item 16.

Kyōsai’s Hyakki gadan features many, or “one hundred,” ghosts (yōkai 妖怪) and monsters (bakemono 化け物). The yōkai are a class of supernatural monsters, spirits and demons in Japanese folklore. In addition to the folklore in Kyōsai’s Hyakki Gadan the history of the narrative is also an important element to Kyōsai’s work. This popular topic has many precedents, including the many illustrated books by Toriyama Sekien from the eightteenth century, with one of the earliest extant examples the painting by Tosa Mitsunobu from the 1500s.

The topic of these spectral figures was also part of the tradition of telling ghost stories, particularly enjoyed during the summer months. On some occasions, people would gather at dusk and tell ghost stories to each other, extinguishing a candle after each story would be completed. As each candle was blown out, it was thought that a yōkai would appear in the room. This is illustrated in Hyakki Gadan in the image where a man dressed in black is telling a scary tale to a group of people . Soon after the book shows a parade of yōkai and bakemono entering, shown moving across the page from the right to the left. At the end, the monsters run from the rising sun back to the underworld. For Kyōsai, the story is clearly about these monsters and the relationship they have with people. There is little to no background in the images. Thus, it pulls the reader into the “floating world.” This is a dream space, a place for stories, and a lack of background is disorienting yet places the reader into the appropriate space for the story to take place. This place is somewhere in the world of dreams, and the light at the end seems to wake the reader out of this world.

Other copies of the Book:

 Selected readings

  •  Jack Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book, 2 vols. (London: Sotheby’s Publications by Philip Wilson Publishers, 1987), see esp. vol. 2, 938, 944.
  • Oikawa Shigeru, Commentary, Pulverer Collection: https://pulverer.si.edu/node/388/title/1
  • Hiroshige Utagawa 歌川広重, Fujimi Hyakuzu 無題 [富士見百図] (one hundred views of Mt. Fuji, 1859.
  • According to Oikawa Shigeru’s commentary, the red circle of the sun represents the fireball that emerges from a Buddhist dharana spell; see https://pulverer.si.edu/node/388/title/1 (accessed November 26, 2019).

Posted by Derek Rodenbeck

April 15th, 2020


KAWANABE KYŌSAI (河鍋暁斎), “NŌGA ZUSHIKI (能画図式),” 1867

Artist: 河鍋暁斎 Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889)

Title: Nōga zushiki 能画図式

Date: 1867 (Keiō 3)

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

Publisher: Kobayashi Bunshichi

Gift of Arthur Tress. Box 16, Item 16.



“Nōga zushiki” is a diagram illustration book of the Japanese Noh drama. Noh is a major traditional form of Japanese dance-drama developed in the 14th century. During the Edo Period, Noh was popular among the aristocrat class and was supported by the emperor and feudal lords. Compared to the popular dance-drama kabuki, Noh theater was reserved only for a small group of upper-class elites. This explains why Noh books like this one are much rarer to find compared to Kabuki books.

This book starts with a depiction of the play “Okina,” commonly recognized as the “Noh play yet isn’t.” It is traditionally considered as a sacred Shinto ritual in which the actors perform divine figures who dance for peace, prosperity, and safety across the land. During the Edo period, it was commonly performed at the start of a full day’s program. The first page of illustration ingeniously introduces the actor facing the left side, offering the men-bako (the mask box that contains masks used for performance) to start the play as the readers turn the pages. The next three pages then portray the ritual dance performance by Okina (the white-masked old man), Senzai (the young man), and Sanba-sō (the black-masked old man,) following the music of hand drums and Japanese flute performed in the background.

After the auspicious opening follows famous Noh plays including Takasago 高砂 (p. 9 – 11) written by Zeiami, Utsubozaru 靱猿 (p. ___), and so on. From each play, Tōiku selected scenes that capture the show and included famous scripts from the play, annotated with the roles on the upper left corners of the texts. The detailed and expressive facial depiction together with the dynamic and dramatic movement again demonstrates Tōiku’s superb talent.

Kawanabe Tōiku, later changed the name to the better known Kyōsai, was one of the most proliferates artists during the transition from the end of Edo to the early years of the Meiji Period. Studied for two years Ukiyo-e style painting under Utagawa Kuniyoshi, later received his artistic training from the Kano School, Kyōsai worked on an expansive range of subjects: this includes earlier works on Buddhism paintings, bird-and-flower paintings, and so on. He later on transitioned to work on print and book publication in the popular sphere and produced a large number of sketches, comic pictures, and albums.

Other copies of this book series:

Mitsui Memorial Museum, Tokyo

Selected Readings:


Posted by Yuqi Zhao

March 25th, 2020


Shaka go-ichidaiki zue 釈迦御一代記図絵 (Illustrated Record of the Life of Śākyamuni), volume 2. Caption: “The Nativity of Prince Siddhārtha” (悉達太子御誕生の図).

Title: Shaka go-ichidaiki zue 釈迦御一代記図絵 (Illustrated Record of the Life of Śākyamuni), six volumes

Date: 1845, fourth month

Medium: woodblock print, ink on paper

Dimensions: 24.9×17.8cm

Compiler: Yamada Isai 山田意斎 (1788–1846)

Illustrator: Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾北斎(1760–1849)

Preface: Daikō Sōgen大綱宗彦 (1772–1860)


Kyōtō Echigoya Jihee京都 越後屋治兵衛

Edo Yamashiroya Sahee江戸 山城屋佐兵衛

Ōsaka Kawachiya Mohee大阪 河内屋茂兵衛

Arthur Tress Collection (Hokusai 50)


See digital images here

Shaka go-ichidaiki zue 釈迦御一代記図絵 (Illustrated Record of the Life of Śākyamuni), six volumes.

In 1845, Illustrated Record of the Life of Śākyamuni was compiled by Yamada Isai (1788–1846) and illustrated by eminent artist of painting and print, Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). Executed near the end of both Isai and Hokusai’s lives, the book contains thirty-two monochrome illustrations of episodes from the Buddha’s life story in six volumes. The book begins in the Indian kingdom of Kapilavastu before the birth of the Buddha with an illustration of the court of the Buddha’s father, King Śuddhodana, and ends after the Buddha’s death, with an illustration of the distribution of the Buddha’s relics.

Shaka go-ichidaiki zue 釈迦御一代記図絵 (Illustrated Record of the Life of Śākyamuni), volume 6. Caption: “Guarding the relics of the Buddha, the rulers of the various lands return home” (佛舎利を衛りて百国の王帰国する図).

Across Asia, images of the Buddha’s life have shared common narrative structures and iconographical conventions for centuries. There is no single, authoritative textual source for the story of the Buddha’s life, and, historically, visual narratives have been structured around several well-known canonical episodes, spanning the Buddha’s birth as Prince Siddhārtha, through his renunciation of worldly attachments, ascetic practice, attainment of enlightenment, and final death. Although these narratives were eventually standardized into recognizable templates, comprising eight or twelve major episodes, they could also be altered creatively to specific contexts, either by adding new episodes, or by extending the narrative beyond the death of the Buddha.

Shaka go-ichidaiki zue 釈迦御一代記図絵 (Illustrated Record of the Life of Śākyamuni), volume 3. Caption: “The demon with eight faces and nine feet tests Prince Siddhārtha, and he receives the four-line verse” (八面九足の霊鬼悉達太子を試して四句の偈を授る図).
Shaka go-ichidaiki zue 釈迦御一代記図絵 (Illustrated Record of the Life of Śākyamuni), volume 1. Caption: “The envious heart of Lady Gotamī transforms her into a great snake” (憍曇彌夫人の妬心大蛇となる図).

The relationship between Illustrated Record of the Life of Śākyamuni and the canonical episodes of the life of the Buddha is akin to that between historical fiction and history. Hokusai’s illustrations, in particular, give precedence to creative additions over canonical staples. The book, for example, does not illustrate the Buddha’s death, and, instead, focuses narrative attention on the machinations of jealous relatives, otherworldly skirmishes, and scenes of hell. The double-page illustration here depicts the episode of dramatic intrigue that concludes volume 1. The right-hand illustration depicts the canonical episode of Buddha’s conception, as the Buddha’s mother, lady Māyā receives a dream of her pregnancy. In the left-hand illustration, however, Māyā’s sister, Gotamī—who is conventionally depicted as benevolent aunt to the Buddha—is recast as a jealous foil, who, consumed by envy, is transformed into a giant snake. This aspect of the narrative derives not from stories of the life of the Buddha, but rather from the story of Lady Xi 郗 (468–499), would-be empress of the Chinese Liang dynasty (502–577).[1]

Additional Impressions:

  • Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties [織田/2/14174 (2101005041–2101005046)]


  • Okaya Bunko, Nagoya University Library [913.56/Ko/岡谷文庫‐902 (10091278–10091283)]


  • Yoshida-South Library, Kyoto University
  • Tohoku University Library
  • Kyushu University Library
  • Rikkyo University Library
  • Kwansei Gakuin University Library
  • Bukkyo University Library
  • Kobe University Library for Social Sciences
  • General Library, University of Tokyo
  • Senshu University Library
  • Nara Prefectural Library & Information Center

Selected Reading:

Asano Shūgō 秀剛浅野, ed., Hokusai ketteiban 北斎決定版 (The Definitive Hokusai) (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 2010), 72.

Timothy Clark, ed., Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave (New York: Thames & Hudson, in collaboration with the British Museum, 2017), 252, no. 158.

Posted by Bryce Heatherly

Spring 2021

[1] Across various recensions of her story, which have circulated for centuries in East and Central Asia since in vernacular tales, Buddhist proselytizing literature, and in the ritual text Merciful Penitence of the Ritual Area (慈悲道場懺法), Lady Xi is said to have transformed into a huge snake due to her extreme jealousy. See Rostislav Berezkin, “Narrative of Salvation: The Evolution of the Story of the Wife of Emperor Wu of Liang in the Baojuan Texts of the Sixteenth-Nineteenth Centuries,” Chinese Studies 37, no. 4 (2019).


Poem on right, as translated by the University of Virginia:Lady Ise

Even for a time
Short as a piece of the reeds
In Naniwa’s marsh,

We must never meet again:
Is this what you are asking me?


Artist: Kitao Masayoshi (Japanese, 1764–1824) (later adopted the name Kuwagata Keisai)

TitleTenarai hyakunin isshu

Date: Unknown, originally published ca. 1815

Medium: Woodblock print, 22.3 cm x 14.5 cm

Gift of Arthur Tress, Box 10, Item 16

Tenarai hyakunin isshu is based upon the classical poetry compilation Hyakunin isshu, or One hundred people, one poem (each), selected by Fujiwara no Teika in the twelfth century. This original compilation comprises of one hundred courtly poems spanning from the seventh century to Teika’s time, written in the style of the Japanese tanka, or waka, an early poetic form meaning “Japanese poetry” as opposed to Japanese poetry written in the Chinese language. In this way Hyakunin isshu represents the impulse to forge a distinctively Japanese poetic identity, separating courtly poems from their occasions to combine them into the singular aestheticized project we know today. From its conception in pre-modern Japan, Hyakunin isshu has since transformed from a material artifact into a historicized text that is reinterpreted and decontextualized time and again, much in the same manner of classical Western texts such as The Iliad and The Odyssey. Since the fifteenth century there are records of commentaries published alongside Hyakunin isshu, and, by Masayoshi’s time, Hyakunin Isshu had gained such accessibility and widespread appeal that it prompted almost every major ukiyo-e artist to try a hand at illustrating the poems, inspired the playing cards uta-garuta, and effectively blurred the line between “high” and “low” culture.

Kitao Masayoshi’s Tenarai hyakunin isshu stands out in two ways. First, tenarai translates to practicing writing with a brush, meaning that Masayoshi’s edition was likely meant to contain illustrations only, so that readers may take up the brush and add the poems themselves. Second, Masayoshi’s style is curiously simple: the spread of colors, marked by hard outlines, affirms its own stripped-down beauty. A pupil of Shigemasa, Masayoshi experimented with various styles throughout his lifetime, from a typical ukiyo-e style to an adaptation of the Chinese technique. As for Tenarai hyakunin isshu, Masayoshi chose a symbolic, representational style that stands directly in contrast to the highly realistic style of Western art at a time, evoking the heart of an abstract, classical time with a language of his own.

There are currently few known copies of Tenarai hykaunin Isshu. One is an unwritten version in the British Museum; another is a copy with handwritten poems up to the twenty-eighth page, formerly in the Odin collection. According to the NIJL catalogue, two additional copies are held in the Gifu Municipal Library; one of these is digitized and does not include writing. The other is listed as part of Nakano Mitsutoshi’s collection. Our copy is rare among known copies in that all the poems have been added in print. An elegant landscape illustration is furthermore found on the first page, unseen in the British Museum version, and the year of publication is unknown, making it a unique and much mysterious case.

Selected Readings

David Chibbett, The History of Japanese Printing and Book Illustration (New York: Kodansha International Ltd., 1977)

Earl Miner, An Introduction to Japanese Court Poetry (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1968).

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

Joshua S. Mostow, Pictures of the Heart: The Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i, 1996).

Posted by Kelly Liu, Fall semester, 2019


Artist: Kōno Bairei 幸野楳嶺 (1841 – 1895)

Title: Bairei kiku hyakushu 梅嶺菊百種

Date: Vol. 1: 1891 (Meiji 24); Vol. 2: 1892 (Meiji 25); Vol.3: 1896 (Meiji 29)

Medium: Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper

Publisher: Ōkura Magobē 大倉孫兵衛 (1843 – 1921)

Donor: Presented by Arthur Tress. Arthur Tress Collection, Box 11, Item 2 (Volumes 1 and 3); Box 23, Item 9 (Volume 2). https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502562303681  https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502745103681

Bairei kiku hyakushu 梅嶺菊百種 “Bairei’s One Hundred Varieties of Chrysanthemum’ is a three volume set designed by the artist Kōno Bairei. The volumes contain delicately printed chrysanthemum flowers framed in different contexts — from wild chrysanthemums blown awry by the wind, to dainty ones in the company of birds and insects. Each print is inscribed with the artist’s seal.

Kōno Bairei began his training at the age of eight with Nakajima Raishō (1796-1871), a Maruyama school artist, and later with Shiokawa Bunrin (1808-1877) of the Shijō school. He was well-known in the Meiji period for his ukiyo-e prints and paid special attention to pictures of birds and flowers (kachō-e). His pictures displayed a keen engagement with western realism and thus had a market in the West as well. In addition to his artistic prowess, Bairei is also known for his role in developing art education. Along with others such as Kubota Beisen (1852-1906) and Mochizuki Gyokusen (1834-1913), he established the Kyoto Prefectural Painting School in 1878. In 1886, he co-founded the Kyoto Young Painters Study Group with Kubota Beisen, with whom he also began the Kyoto Art Association in 1895.

The images displayed here are from volumes 1 and 3. The image on the right, from volume 3, is bursting with movement, heightened by the petals made wild by the wind. On the left, from volume 1, is a beautiful print presenting the iconic Mt. Fuji as a backdrop to Bairei’s chrysanthemums.

Other copies: Pulverer Collection, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC; British Museum, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Selected Readings:

 Hillier, Jack, The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Published for Sotheby’s Publications by Philip Wilson Publishers, New York, 1987, p.959-74.

Posted by Ayesha Sheth, Fall semester, 2019



Artist: Mori Tetsuzan 森徹山 (Japanese, 1775-1841) et al.
Author: Kagetsukanō Kirei
Date: 1836
Medium: Woodblock print, 27.7 cm x 15.8 cm
Publisher: Unknown
Gift of Arthur Tress, Box 17, Item 9

Kagetsujō, which literally translates to “Album of Flowers and Moon,” would be more correctly understood as “Kagetsu’s Album,” since Kagetsu (besides meaning flowers and moon) is also the name of the editor who compiled the volume. Kagetsujō comprises approximately fifteen illustrations created with sumi ink of various gradations, rendered into woodblock, which are composed by a number of artists and interspersed with occasional pages of text. Those illustrations, broadly speaking, fit under the genre of the shunga (“spring pictures”), or erotic art. According to the British Museum, Kireiken Toen, who went by the pen-name of Kagetsukano, was acquainted with many Japanese artists of the time and compiled the volume as a gift for a trip to Edo.

In certain early editions of Kagetsujō, a list of artist names appears at the end of the volume, revealing the true identities of those who signed their seals with pseudonyms. That list is not included in our edition. Many of the contributing artists follow the Shijō school, while other leaders of Kyoto schools are also represented. They include Kano Eigaku (Kanō school), Maruyama Ōshin (Maruyama/Shijō school), Mori Tetsuzan (Maruyama/Shijō school), and many more. Interestingly, this eclectic group converges in this volume in style, depicting erotic scenes in a slightly abstract, highly evocative style, a departure from the more detailed and colorful shunga illustrations by artists such as Hokusai. Printed with black sumi ink that fades in and out of focus, as well as an astute use of negative space to create form in the absence of color, the illustrations are rather emotionally charged. In fact, some of the illustrations are not explicitly or implicitly sexual, such as the image above.

It is understood that many of the artworks are based on previous shunga and scrolls. As scholar Jack Hillier points out, the print above, for instance, is reminiscent of seventeenth-century artwork by Moroshige. There are many other editions of this work around the world, such as in the British Museum, in the collection of Nakano Mitsutoshi, and in the Ebi Collection, Leeds (with a list of artists at the end of the volume).

Selected Readings

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

Nakano Mitsutoshi, “Kirei wakudeki,” in Edo kyōsha den (Tokyo, 2007), 439–493, 478–484.

Richard Lane, “Kagetsu-jō — A Shijō shunga album,” Ukiyo-e 65 (Spring 1976), 88–125.

Posted by Kelly Liu, Fall semester, 2019



Artist: Nakajima Tanjirō 中嶋丹次郎

Title: Hinagata yado no ume  雛形宿之梅(Pattern Book: The Plum Trees of Our Home)

Date: 1730

Medium: Woodblock print, black ink on paper.

Gift of Arthur Tress, Arthur Tress Collection Box 55 Item 9 (https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502848103681)


After two pages of introductory text, this volume features thirty-six kimono designs. The designs range from simple black and white foliate patterns to elaborate imaginary landscapes replete with animals and dense vegetation. These designs continually reiterate motifs of the plum tree and plum blossom, an event associated with early spring. Accompanying the kimono designs are one to two lines of text. This text was rather flexible. It could describe the pattern, be used for an evocative excerpt of poetry, and in some cases dictate to the clothier certain techniques and tools that could best be used to render an elaborate design. Kimono pattern books, or Hinagata-bon, were working documents heavily used by both clothier and customer as cheap and quick reference material for the latest designs. However, the books could also be collected for sheer pleasure; certainly, there was something to be gained by simply perusing the newest styles for the year, ruminating on the elaborate patterns and staying current in the fast-moving world of Tokugawa period fashion.

Although Nakajima Tanjirō is listed as the primary artist of this work, the pages in this volume contain the signatures of three additional artists: Tagagi Kōsuke, Banryuken, and Himekiya Magobei. Additionally, it should be noted that the current edition is merely one volume of the collection; additional volumes could still further complicate an assumption of Nakajima Tanjirō’s authorship. Thus, it may be more appropriate to see these kimono pattern books as piecemeal assemblages that reflect, overall, the haute couture of the era, rather than single authoritative works.

Another copy of this book is at the Ryerson Library in the Art Institute of Chicago


Selected Reading

Hillier, Jack. The Art of the Japanese Book. Vol. 1. 2 vols. London: Sotheby’s, 1987.


Siffert, Betty Y. “‘Hinagata Bon’: The Art Institute of Chicago Collection of Kimono Pattern Books.” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 18, no. 1 (1992): 86–103.


Simmons, Pauline. “Artist Designers of the Tokugawa Period.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 14, no. 6 (1956): 133–48.


Posted by Nick Purgett

May 10th, 2020


Author: Nakamura Tekisai 中村 惕斎 (Japanese, 1629-1702)

Illustrator: Shimokōbe Shūsui 下河辺 拾水 (Japanese, ?- 1798)

Date: 1789 (Kansei 1)

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

Description: volume 4; 23 cm; fukurotoji (pouch binding)

Publisher: Kyōto皇都(京都): Kyūkōdō 九皐堂

Call Number: Arthur Tress Collection. Box 69, Item 14.

Gift of Arthur Tress

This item is from the revised and enlarged edition of the very first Japanese illustrated encyclopedia originally published in 1666 (Kanbun 6).  In this edition published in 1789, there are over 1500 entries grouped in 21 categories including astronomy, architecture, geography, occupations, insects, animals and plants, and each entry is written in both kanji and kana.  This particular item is volume 4 of the 21-volume set, and the subject of this volume is “people,” mostly categorized by their occupations.  What is curious about the entries is it mixes the other-worldly figures in with the humans.  It is also notable that foreigners are closely grouped with mythical figures such as the “long legs” and “giants.”


Nakamura Tekisai 中村 惕斎 (1629-1702) was a self-taught Neo-Confucian scholar who was sometimes described as a hermit, as he devoted himself to studying a wide range of subjects. As Tekisai writes in the preface of the original edition, he compiled the encyclopedia in hopes to educate and enlighten his own children. His other works include Hime kagami, a women’s didactic book written in Kana, which he also wrote for his young daughter.

Shimokōbe Shūsui 下河辺 拾水 (?-1798) is thought to be Nishikawa Sukenobu’s pupil, and he has illustrated various books in his career, including didactic books, kokkeibon, and illustrated guides.


Other impressions

Asian Art Collection, Brooklyn Museum

Japanese Rare Book Collection, National Diet Library, Tōkyō, Japan

Melikian Collection, Arizona State University Library

Waseda University Library

Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard Art Museums


Selected reading/bibliography

Armstrong, R, C. (1974). Nakamura Tekisai, Light from the East: Studies in Japanese Confucianism (pp. 78-83).

Ishigami, Aki. (2017). 「訓蒙図彙」考序論―絵入百科事典データベース構築とともに. Proceedings of the Overseas Symposium in Otago: Japanese Studies Down Under: History, Politics, Literature and Art. (pp. 69-78). Kyoto, Japan: International Research Center for Japanese Studies.


Posted by Eri Mizukane

February 19, 2020