In the early 1840s, Kuniyoshi took up the theme of landscape prints again, after some more than five years silence on this front. Alas, for reasons unknown, the project was stopped after only five designs had come out. Was it the poor reaction of the print buying public, or was it beyond the capacity of the publisher Murataya Jirōbei, or was it the poets involved in some of the prints? Anyway, we are left with only five of thirty-six scheduled/promised designs in the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji Seen from the Eastern Capital (Tōto Fujimi sanjūrokkei).

Kuniyoshi: Mount Fuji with a Clear Sky from the Open Sea at Tsukudajima Island

For Kuniyoshi, the series seems to have been a tribute to Hokusai whom he greatly admired. Not only does the ‘Thirty-six’ in the series title evoke Hokusai’s famous Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei) of the early 1830s, also the writing of the name of the mountain with characters literally reading ‘Not two,’  meaning  ’Second to none,’ calls into mind the characters used in the titles of the plates in Hokusai’s Hundred Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku hyakkei) albums.

As for the dating of the Kuniyoshi series, Robinson 1961 has c.1843; Nagoya 1996 has c.1844; Ota 2011 has c.1844; Iwakiri 2013 has c.1843; Menegazzo 2017 has c.1843. I myself had dated the series to ‘early 1840s,’ actually rather thinking of a date around 1842/43. And that was before I realised that the plate of the fisherman pulling up his large net was to be found in volume three of the Hundred Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku hyakkei) album, and not in volumes one or two. The fisherman in Hokusai’s plate titled Mount Fuji Behind the Net (Amiura no Fuji) is almost literally copied by Kuniyoshi in his plate Mount Fuji with a Clear Sky from the Open Sea at Tsukudajima Island (Tsukuda oki kaisei no Fuji) – actually writing characters reading ‘seiten’ and indicating that they should be read ‘kaisei’, as in the Fuji in South Wind and Clear Sky (Gaifū kaisei) plate in Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views.

Hokusai: Mount Fuji Behind the Net, from Fugaku hyakkei vol. 3

The date of publication for the two first volumes of the Hundred Views of Mount Fuji is no problem, these are clearly indicated at the end as 1834 and 1835. But the third volume was issued without any such a date, moreover by a different publisher than the two earlier volumes. It is now commonly accepted that the designs were finished by Hokusai and also the blocks were cut by Egawa Sentarō, or at least under his supervision, as early as 1835 for publication in 1836. This we may conclude from a letter of Hokusai to the publishers Kobayashi Shinbei and two others, asking them to contract Egawa for some future project, as his work on the ’three volumes of the Hundred Views surpassed that of many others’ (see Iijima Kyoshin, Katsushika Hokusaiden, Vol. 1, pp. 54f).

But then the long-established firm of the publisher Nishimuraya Yohachi went bankrupt and Nishimuraya was obliged to sell the blocks of all three volumes, which were then acquired by Eirakuya Tōshirō of Nagoya. Eirakuya then waited until the worst of the Tenpō crisis was over – which was probably also the reason why Nishimuraya went bankrupt – and then he brought out his edition of the three volumes of the Hundred Views.

As there is a reference to Hokusai as ‘the old man of over ninety’ in the preface to volume three, Suzuki 1986 (p. 205) believed that this volume was published around 1849, the year Hokusai died, aged 90. Nagata 1985 (p. 161) records volume three as undated, but positions it in between publications of 1840/II and 1841/Autumn (much earlier, in an article in Ukiyoe Art, no. 47 [1975] Nagata still held the date of publication to be ‘c.1849’). Forrer 1985 (p. 173) was the first to suggest a date around 1842, on the basis of the advertisements that Eirakuya included in his first edition of Hokusai’s Hundred Views of Mount Fuji. But I must say that I never bothered to check who was following me except from Nagata sensei. Anyway, the date of c.1842 would be perfectly in agreement with the various datings of Kuniyoshi’s Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji seen from the Eastern Capital where he acknowledges to have seen all three of the Hokusai Hundred Views albums.