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