Utagawa Toyokiyo – What went wrong?

Although I had seen the name of Utagawa Toyokiyo 歌川豊清, and even on various occasions, I never bothered to find out who he really was. But working occasionally on the collection of the Museum of East Asian Art at Cologne, I was intrigued by a quite impressive surimono print that he designed at the age of only 14. 

Utagawa Toyokiyo: Ichikawa Danjūrō VII as Fudō Myōō. New Year’s surimono, 1813
Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Cologne (R 63,3)

Toyokiyo was born in 1799, the son of Utagawa Toyohiro 歌川豊広 – as Yoshida Teruji’s still unsurpassed Ukiyoe jiten tells me. Studying at first with his father and also with Utagawa Toyokuni 歌川豊国, his early work is signed Kinzō 金蔵. As he just turns fourteen – others would then just start their professional training – Utagawa Toyoharu 歌川豊春 gives him the art-name of Toyokiyo. 

His earliest known work, signed Utagawa Kinzō, dates from 1810, the illustrations of a 3-volume novel by Tōzaian Nanboku 東西庵南北 (died 1827), also known as Rokkyokuen 六極園, a judge of the Gogawa poetry club. This novel, Fudehajime hinode matsu 筆始日出松 (NSN 388; KSM 7:116-2), is only one of eleven novels that Nanboku published that year. Of these, six are illustrated by Katsukawa Shunsen 勝川春扇, three by Utagawa Kunifusa 歌川国房, and one each by Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞 and Utagawa Toyokiyo. The collaboration is repeated two years later, in 1812, when Toyokiyo illustrates a 5-volume novel by Nanboku, the Onna kappō koi no shugyōsha 女合法恋修業者 (NSN 397; KSM 1:715-2). He then signs ‘Kinzō aratame Toyokiyo,’ thus announcing his change of name. 

In the same year, Toyokiyo is selected also for a much more prestigious job, to make the illustrations for Kyokutei Bakin’s 曲亭馬琴 (1767-1848) novel Itozakura shunchō kien 糸桜春蝶奇緑 (NSN 106; KSM 1:266-1) in ten volumes, which was apparently reissued in 1826 and 1854. 

Otherwise, in the medium of prints, we know of a series of Ōmi hakkei 近江八景 with the views in medallions, signed Utagawa Kinzō 哥川金蔵, all eight chūban 中判 prints known (MFA Boston Res. 49.130-137). He also makes a rather simple print of the Korean envoy that came to Edo in III/1811, titled Chōsenjin raichō gyōretsu no zu 朝鮮人来朝行列図 (The Procession of the Korean Envoy to Japan, a copy of which is preserved in the Tokyo Metropolitan Library). And then there is, also mentioned by Yoshida, his series of ōban 大判 prints titled Imayō bijin musume awase 今様美人娘合 (Todays Beautiful Women and Girls) published by Izumiya Ichibei. Yoshida has a small illustration of a woman holding a child playing with a toy, and dates the series to around 1812, which is indeed quite likely. Another print from this series, of a woman holding the cord of a wheeled book-cart (fuguruma 文車), in the Boston collection again (11.18022), offers a better opportunity to appreciate Toyokiyo’s talents. It is not only an extremely well-preserved print in quite stunning colours, it is also quite a powerful design. Indeed, for a boy just fourteen years old, this would herald a great future. 

Utagawa Toyokiyo: A woman with a book-cart, from the series Todays Beautiful Women and Girls, ca 1812
(Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

But before we come to speak of that, let’s focus on one more design, the surimono I mentioned earlier. Against the backdrop of a wide waterfall, we see the actor Ichikawa Danjūrō VII 七世市川団十郎 (1791-1859) as Fudō Myōō 不動明王, the God of the Waterfalls. To the right of him is Iwai Hanshirō V 五世岩井半四郎 (1776-1847) als Seitaka Dōji せいたか童子 holding a lotus, and to the left Matsumoto Kōshirō V 五世松本幸四郎 (1764-1838) as Kongara Dōji こんから童子 swaying a club. As Danjūrō impersonated the role of Fudō only once during the period of Toyokiyo’s activity, the play is easily identified as Yuki mo Yoshino kigoto no kaokagami 雪吉野恵木顔鏡, staged XI/1812 in the Morita Theatre 森田座 (KN 5:507). With two poems above, one by Mitaan Shikamaru 三田庵鹿丸, the other by Sakuragawa Jihinari 桜川慈悲成 (1760-1833), this was a perfect New Year’s card for the year 1813.

Naturally, we know that Jihinari was a good friend of both Toyohiro, the father of Toyokiyo, and of Danjūrō. Yet, it is quite amazing that they would offer the fourteen year old Toyokiyo the chance to design such a prestigious surimono in quite a large format. This confirms that he was widely – and justifiably – considered a promising talent. Then there is, discussed by William Green in a 1985 issue of the Ukiyo-e Society of America’s Impressions titled “Reflections and random notes on an uncommon surimono,” he informs us of his recent acquisition of a collaborative work of father and son, Toyohiro making a design of three karako playing with a kite, and Toyokiyo painting the kite with a large-head portrait of Danjūrō in Shibaraku. This would probably make a companion print to the Cologne surimono, as it would seem to be based on Danjūrō performing Shibaraku in his role of Shinozuka the Lord of Iga 篠塚伊賀守 in the same play in XI/1812. Somewhat later, most likely based on a performance of Shikisemono Soga datezome 例燭曽我伊達染 in I/1813 at the Morita Theatre 森田座 (KN 5:511), there are two quite similar surimono prints with a portrait of an actor as if it were a mounted scroll painting, one of Ichikawa Danjūrō VII 七世市川団十郎 as Soga no Gorō in Yanone 矢の根五郎 (his spear sharpening act, though not explicitly mentioned in Kabuki nenpyō)*, the other with Matsumoto Kōshirō IV 松本幸四郎 as Kudō Suketsune 工藤祐經. Both prints have three poems, the last ones again by Sakuragawa Jihinari. And then, until his untimely death in 1820 at the age of 22, there is no more trace of any activity, no book illustrations, no more prints, no more surimono, nothing.

What happened? Bakin’s recollections in his Kinsei mono no hon 近世物之本 make no mention of Toyokiyo. The Ukiyoe ruikō 浮世絵類考 confirms that he was the son of Toyohiro and initially trained by both his father and Toyokuni. Another version states that he ‘made many prints and novels, and one or two yomihon’ 錦繪草双子等多く読本一二部あり. And the Watanabe version of the Ruikō mentions a New Year’s surimono of Danjūrō in Shitennō 四天王 for 1804, maybe a bit unlikely for a boy six years old. Indeed, this would more likely be after the performance of XI/1810 at the Ichimura Theatre 市村座 with Danjūrō playing Kidōmaru 鬼同丸. Would love to see it, would still be signed Utagawa Kinzō. Or would it be that his father Toyohiro figured that it was about time that he should learn some craft, as was normal practice for Japanese boys at the time. Ukiyo, the Floating World, is what we can see through pink glasses, La Vie en Rose, but there is also a very harsh reality … erst kommt das Fressen

* In the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg (S2012774.1, from the collection of my good old friend Gerhard Schack)

Hokusai’s Self-portrait and his Sōhitsu Gafu

We like mysteries, don’t we? Today we go for this fabulous Hokusai self-portrait as a drawing at the end of a letter to … some unidentified publisher. It is signed Hachiemon 八右衛門 with the seal Manji 卍, adding his age as 83 years old 八十三歳, so we know this must date from 1842. Even when we have a translation of the text of the letter – or what remains of the letter – it just stops there. Everybody seems to love the mystery of the addressee – much like what the charm of Beethovens letter to ‘die unsterbliche Geliebte’ is, though there have at least been many speculations. But nobody (as far as I am aware) ever made an attempt to identify the publisher to whom this letter was sent.* 

Hokusai Self-portrait aged 83 years National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

But it cannot really be that difficult, as the letter reads:

Well then, the sketches in this volume were made when I was about forty-one or forty-two; moreover, a number of them duplicates one another. After all these years some of them might be better worked out. The remainder, which you may smile about, should be regarded as immature work from the past.**

There is only one volume of various sketches made into a book and dating from post 1842, thus meeting all the requirements. That is the Manji-ō sōhitsu gafu『卍翁艸筆畫譜』published by Kikuya Kōsaburō 菊屋幸三郎 of Edo. There is no other possible contender, no mistake, it is as simple as that. The Sōhitsu gafu has 17 single and 14 double-page illustrations of various subjects, a perfect mixture for an ‘album of paintings’ as we should understand the common Japanese concept of the ‘gafu’ in the title. 

Looking at the plates raises two questions. One concerns the date of the drawings Hokusai mentions. He maintains that these would date from when he was forty-one or two, which would be in Kyōwa, 1800 or 1801, which I cannot believe. They rather seem to date from Bunka, the late 1810s, when he worked on the final volumes of the Hokusai manga, the Hokusai gashiki and the Hokusai soga – leftovers maybe? Another question concerns the fire of 1839 when he was living at Daruma Yokochō 達磨横町 in Azumabashi itchōme, Sumidaku 墨田区吾妻橋一丁目 when he could just grasp his brushes and get safely out of his studio himself, but would loose all his sketches and drawings in the fire, as the Katsushika Hokusai den (上64b-65b) informs us and which mostly came to us through De Goncourt (p. 242). If this were altogether correct and reliable, it seems quite impossible that Hokusai would three years later be sending some thirty plus drawings dating from ‘when I was about forty-one or forty-two.’

The colophon

Let us now have a closer look at the album that Kikuya Kōsaburō made out of the sketches that Hokusai sent him together with this letter, the Manji-ō sōhitsu gafu. The illustrations are, quite remarkably, just in line with supporting accents in grey, something quite unprecedented, and of a very different nature from what we see in the Hundred Views of Fuji 富嶽百景 albums. According to the colophon, the album was published in Tenpō 14, 1843, year of the Hare, first month, lucky day of the Dragon (Tenpō jūyonsai mizunoto u shoshun kichi tatsu hasshi 天保十四歳癸卯初春吉辰發市). And we find the date of 1843 duly in all literature, as if it shouldn’t puzzle us to find a preface to the volume signed by Tōjō Kindai 1795-1878, the father of Kikuya, signed ‘composed by the Old Kindai, father of the publisher Kōshi, with seal: Kōshizō (Kindai rōjin Tōjō Kōshizō no chichi sen, s: Kōshizō 琴臺老人東條耕子藏父撰 印: 耕子藏) that is surprisingly dated Tenpō, Spring of the year of the Dragon, 1832 (Tenpō mizunoe tatsu no haru 天保壬辰之春) – with the combination mizunoe tatsu unmistakably indicating the year 1832. However, as he writes that the volume was given the title of Album of Paintings with a Free Brush by the Old Manji, this must be a mistake, as Hokusai only announced his change of name to Manji in 1834. The mistake must be in the cyclical date, writing mizunoe tatsu instead of kinoe tatsu 甲辰, which gives 1844. 

What happened is this: Kikuya had the drawings that Hokusai sent him worked out and all the blocks had been cut by Suzuki Eijirō (chōkoku 鈴木榮次郞彫刻), even the colophon page with the date of Tenpō 14, First month of 1843. But we are also in the heydays of the Tenpō Reforms 天保の改革 promulgated on 22/V/1841. And from XII/1838 it had been forbidden to display and sell picture books – and the Manji-ō sōhitsu gafu is a picture book – and erotic works in the front of the shop, yes these were difficult times. Hoping to be on the safe side with his plates printed in line and just with grey tones, he then still thought it wiser to wait for better times, maybe next year, and so in the end he dared publish the book in the First month of 1844, as indicated in the preface. A few years later, as the Tenpō Reforms became less strict, around 1847, he also took the risk to bring out a version in colours, under the title Hokusai manga Sōhitsu no bu 北斎漫畫草筆之部.

* I identified the addressee before, but in more obscure locations.

**I was told that Georg Baselitz was inspired to make a series of quite impressive drawings based on the portrait and the translation that he saw in my 1991 Royal Academy exhibition catalogue – he donated ten of these to the British Museum and another ten to the Met, but forgot to give me one.

When Hokusai’s Mount Fuji Became Second to None

As the advert for the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji appeared in the 1st Month of 1831 in Part 12 of Ryūtei Tanehiko’s 柳亭種彦 (1783-1842) Shōhon jitate『正本製』, it was indicated that what we now usually read as Fugaku 富嶽 should be read as ‘Fuji.’ It is now difficult to know whether this was meant to help the public that might have some problem with the reading of the less common character 嶽, or whether it was, indeed, Hokusai’s or the publisher’s idea that we should read the series-title 富嶽三十六景 as Fuji sanjūrokkei.

The problem – or the question at least – comes up again in 1834 when the first part of his One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji is published, where we similarly, and correctly, usually transcribe the title 富嶽百景 as Fugaku hyakkei. That this is correct can be inferred from the small leaflet that the publishers issued in the Autumn of 1833, announcing the forthcoming album 冨嶽百景 with the indication in furigana that this should be read as ふがくひやくけい, Fugaku hyakkei that is, by ’the Old Man Iitsu formerly Hokusai’ 前北斎為一老翁 to be transcribed as saki no Hokusai Iitsu rōō

The leaflet announcing the forthcoming publication of the Fugaku hyakkei, handed to potential buyers in late 1833

It cannot be doubted that Ryūtei Tanehiko in his preface to the Fugaku hyakkei Part 1 knew that Hokusai used the characters 不二, to be read as Fuji, but literally meaning ’not’ and ‘two,’ or ‘second to none,’ often also translated as ‘peerless,’ for each of the titles of his plates. Indeed, also Tanehiko refers to the mountain as Second to None.

Interestingly, Hokusai used this spelling of the mountain’s name also in the prints in the final instalment of his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series – the ten prints that all have a line-block printed in black from the start. These are Minobugawa ura Fuji 身延川裏不二; Tōkaidō Shinagawa Atagoyama no Fuji 東海道品川御殿山ノ不二; Senju kagai yori chōbō no Fuji 従千住花街眺望ノ不二; and Tōkaidō Kanaya no Fuji 東海道金谷ノ不二 . It would even seem that these five prints were the last five designs that he made, not only introducing the spelling of Fuji as Second to None, as in the Fugaku hyakkei volumes, but also indicating for the first time in the titles of the series, that it was the ‘Second-to-None Mountain’ seen from here, or seen there. Until then, the mountain was not mentioned in any of the preceding fourty-one print titles.

This also corroborates that the last instalment of the Fuji series coincides with Hokusai working on his One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji albums, in 1833 or 1834. 

Hokusai Autobiography or What did Hokusai expect his art to be like at age 86?

Nobody will ever forget these lines once you have read them. That artist who was confident that he would ‘at ninety have got even closer to the essence of art, and at the age of one hundred I will reach a magnificent level, and at a hundred and ten, each dot and each line will be alive.’ Unforgettable words written by the 75 years old Katsushika Hokusai in his One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji, Fugaku hyakkei, coming out in the third month of 1834.

Personally I consider these three-volumes Hokusai’s greatest in the category of books that he largely composed himself. Judging from its popularity among the early Parisian collectors, they too considered it an absolute must for any collector of Japanese art – it ranks first when making an inventory of all those wonderful early twentieth century Parisian auction catalogues (and in case you wonder, the Bunpō gafu volumes rank second, Sukenobu’s Hyakunin jorō shinasadame third, the Hokusai manga volumes fourth, and Kitao Shigemasa’s Seirō bijin awase sugata kagami fifth). It can thus hardly come as a surprise that the short autobiography from the Fugaku hyakkei was translated into French as early as in 1883 in Louis Gonse’s l’Art japonais (Vol 1, pp 286f). The text, just slightly adapted by Edmond de Goncourt – with the assistance of Hayashi Tadamasa? – would then reach an even larger audience as it was cited in his Hokousaï of 1896 (p. 261):

Depuis l’âge de six ans, j’avais la manie de dessiner la forme des objets. Vers l’âge de cinquante ans, j’avais publié une infinité de dessins, mais tout ce que j’ai produit avant l’âge de soixante-dix ans, ne vaut pas la peine d’être compté. C’est à l’âge de soixante-treize ans, que j’ai compris à peu près la structure de la nature vraie, des animaux, des herbes, des arbres, des oiseaux, des poisons et des insects.

Par conséquent, à l’âge de quatre-vingts ans, j’aurai fait encore plus de progrès; à quatre-vingt-dix ans je pénétrerai le mystère des choses; à cent ans je serai décidément parvenu à un degré de merveille, et quand j’aurai cent dix ans, chez moi, soit un point, soit une ligne, tout sera vivant;

Je demande à ceux qui vivront autant que moi, de voir si je tiens ma parole. Écrit à l’âge de soixante-quinze ans par moi, autrefois Hokousaï, aujourd’hui Gwakiô Rôjin, le vieillard fou de dessin.

The text in the second column from the right as it appears in the colophon sheet of the One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji, courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

My own most recent translation reads:

From the age of six I had already been drawing all kinds of things. Although I had really made many designs from the time I was fifty [1809], none of my works until my seventieth [1829] is really worth counting. It was only from the age of seventy-three [1832] that I have finally understood the true forms of animals, insects and fish, and the nature of plants and trees. Consequently, I will have made more and more progress by the age of eighty [1839], and at ninety [1849 – the year Hokusai died] I will have got even closer to the essence of art. At the age of one hundred I will reach a magnificent level, and at a hundred and ten each dot and each line will be alive. I would like to ask those who outlive me to see whether I have not spoken idly. Gakyōrōjin Manji

… actually, I am cheating a little, I should admit, this translation still had the mistaken ‘age of eighty-six’ [1845] instead of the correct ‘age of eighty’ – and that is the subject here. It was only quite recently that I discovered this widespread mistake when I first compared one of the many transcriptions of this text in Japanese handbooks with the original.

This cannot, of course, be an excuse, but like many of my colleagues, I only made my translations (see below) using very reliable sources, such as Suzuki Jūzō’s Fugaku hyakkei (Tokyo: Iwasaki Bijutsusha, 1972, p 189f, reprinted in 1986; his essay also reprinted in his Ehon to ukiyoe (Tokyo: Bijutsu Shuppansha, 1979, p 311), or Oka Isaburō in the Hokusai volume in the Ukiyoe Taikei series (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1975, p 88), or Nagata Seiji in the Hokusai volume in the Ukiyoe hakka series (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1984, p 137), or his Katsushika Hokusai nenpu (Tokyo: Sansai Shinsha, 1985, p 117), or even his revised Katsushika Hokusai nenpu in the Hokusai kenkyū magazine, no. 22, 1997, p 148 – all, most reliable sources as you would agree, I guess. And they all make the same mistake of reading ‘eighty-six’ instead of ‘eighty years.’

I still don’t know who did it, could it really have been Suzuki sensei (is this a case of even Homer nods?) who decided to transcribe the text himself, rather than copy it from Narazaki Muneshige who had already in 1944 provided a perfect transcription in his Hokusai ron (Tokyo:  Atoriesha, 1944, p 6) or even go back to Iijima’s Katsushika Hokusai den of 1893 (Vol 1 p 52b)? Anyway, apart from Willem van Gulik (1982 and 2020), Gian Carlo Calza (2003), and myself (1988, 1991, and 2018), it were mostly Japanese writers, such as Oka Isaburō (1975), Nagata Seiji (1984, 1985, 1997, and 2005), Sakai Gankow (1993), Kōno Motoaki (1996), and Asano Shūgō (ironically in his Hokusai ketteiban, or Hokusai The Final Edition of 2010, p 177), who fell victim to this slight but very meaningful mis-transcription. What seems to have happened is that someone in transcribing the text initially read 八十六 for 八十才 (see above in the text in the picture, at the same height as the 狂 of the signature 画狂老人卍) then quickly corrected the 六 into 才, and then left both, to make the 八十六才 ‘age of eighty-six’ that from then started to corrupt this highly personal observation on his art by the artist himself.

The correct transcription of the text by Nagata Seiji, as he came to realize his earlier mistakes in 2008, in Hokusai kenkyu 42

I will continue my search for the original source of the mistake and keep updating, no final edition here. Anyway, if you have any of the books or catalogues giving ‘the age of eighty-six’ please cross out the ‘six’ or rather: paint it black.

Japanese Popular Print Culture – A Critical Review – 1760s (Part 2)

Just forgetting about the printing revolution enabling full-colour printing for those who could benefit from this development, and just focusing on the now well-established benizurie prints, it is obvious that Torii Kiyomitsu, the number two in the 1750s, climbs to the first position in the 1760s. The number two is his pupil, the new talent Torii Kiyotsune, and number three is Torii Kiyohiro – who was the number one in the 1750s. The number two of the 1750s, Ishikawa Toyonobu, is almost completely out of sight, as is Torii Kiyoshige, the number three.

Interestingly, in the format of illustrated novels, we again find the numbers one and two in single print output, Kiyotsune (43 illustrated novels) and Kiyomitsu (40 illustrated novels), here ranking second and third as illustrators of popular novels of various kinds. But it is Tomikawa Fusanobu aka Ginsetsu (126 illustrated novels – “illustrated a few small books” is the comment in Roberts, p. 27) who takes the first position. Fusanobu had been active as a publisher of popular novels and single prints under the name of Yamamoto Kyūzaemon, operating from Ōtenmachō in Edo. However, he is said to have opted to rather be an illustrator as his business declined (Ukiyoe ruikō, p. 102). Yet, the Yamamoto firm seems to have been active from the 1710s to 1768, and we first see Fusanobu as an illustrator from 1756 to 1781, using the art-name of Ginsetsu from 1772. So he may have been the second generation in the family’s publishing business, leaving this to his son. According to the Watanabe copy of the Ukiyoe ruikō, Fusanobu studied with Nishimura Shigenaga. Actually, he just concentrated on illustrations to novels of the kurohon (171) and the akahon (88) genres, and no enpon, so it seems.

Anyway, with a total of 236 illustrated novels in the 1760s, versus only 25 in the 1750s, this is the beginning of an absolutely major development that will enable us to get a more correct notion of how artists of the popular printing tradition were being evaluated in their times. Here, for example, we know both Kiyomitsu and Kiyotsune from their prints, but in regard to Fusanobu, Binyon & Sexton remark ‘About eight prints in all comprise his output’ (p. 44). We will see this again in the 1780s, when the Kitao tradition is at its height, with Kitao Shigemasa (1739-1820, act. 1766-1820) taking the third position, responsible for the illustrations of 35 popular novels, and his pupils Masayoshi (1764-1824, act. 1780-1824) and Masanobu (1761-1816, act. 1778-1804) taking the second and third position, with 150 and 120 illustrated novels respectively. But none of them is really known for his prints.

Japanese Popular Print Culture – A Critical Review – 1760s (Part 1)

We have always been taught that the 1760s would see quite drastic changes, like someone pushing the button and lo and behold, there is the Floating World in multicolour. But is there more than just the birth of full-colour printing, the development of the so-called ‘brocade prints,’ nishikie (錦繪). And is there any effect of that innovation of multicolour printing, other than the numerous privately issued egoyomi (繪暦) for 1765 and 1766 and the Katsukawa trying to overpower the Torii portraits of actors. Is there more than just Suzuki Harunobu (1724?-1770, act. 1760-70) and Katsukawa Shunshō (1726-1793, act. 1764-1793). Are we indeed living in a different world?

Anyway, I am afraid that 1765 has become too much of a magical date – more about that later. What we see in single prints in the 1760s is a considerable decline, at least just focusing on the benizurie prints that Higuchi is listing (but still have to incorporate also Mutō’s database). His total for the 1740s is a pretty sound 188, but dropping to 129 in the 1750s – which is well before the development of full-colour printing – and again decreasing by almost 50% in the 1760s, to 100. Would this mean that the single prints from the latter half of the 1760s were all full colour prints?

As we saw before, tane were mostly produced simultaneously with black and white prints, from 1678 until circa 1723, whereas urushie had already been developed from 1717. And urushie then continued to be produced until circa 1752, with benizurie making their appearance as early as in 1744. And so we must also realize that mastering the technique of colour printing would not change the landscape of prints overnight. Indeed, we find benizurie still being published in the years 1766-68 (Torii Kiyohiro [act. 1752-68] and Kitao Shigemasa [1739-1820, act. 1765-1820]), or even as late as in the years 1770-73 (Kiyonaga, the fifth generation head of the Torii studio). Many regular buyers of prints were obviously simply happy with the benizuri portrayals of actors of the kabuki theatre that they had been buying for so many years. Moreover, and more importantly, it looks as if they simply had to still their hunger with benizurie, as they did not happen to belong to the circles that had access to the novel colour prints – as I will explain later on.

And how did other formats fare? Picture books of various kinds, mostly works with just illustrations and brief captions, but also of the ehon type that Sukenobu developed in the 1740s with illustrations to longer bits of text, these number like 58 in the 1740s, created by 12 artists, a figure almost doubled in the 1750s to 112 works by 23 artists. Actually, this is not very disparate in the 1760s, with 105 works created by 26 artists, with 5 artists being responsible for one single work only. But these are total figures. If we just focus on Edo productions, we are talking about a mere 15 works by three artists in the 1740s. For the 1750s, the figure is somewhat better, with 45 picture books by eight Edo artists, and in the 1760s we finally see some difference with the Edo production at almost half of the total of 105, with 50 picture books by nine artists.

This actually shouldn’t really surprise us, as we see the same in publishing in general: until the 1770s, the total production of books by Kyoto and Osaka publishers is far more than what Edo publishers produce. It is only from the 1770s that Edo publishers beat the combined production of Kyoto and Osaka publishers, and that is the situation until this day.[1]

If we also include enpon with the picture books – assuming that these were not really seen as very different at the time – the figure of 58 for the 1740s becomes 74, now by 13 artists. And for the 1750s, the figure of 112 becomes 122 by 25 artists, and for the 1760s this would be 105 plus 29 works by 11 artists (5 from Edo), which is different – but still nothing compared to what difference enpon would make in the 1770s.

For real change, we probably have to focus on popular novels of various sub-genres, such as ukiyozōshi, yomihon, kokkeibon, sharebon, hanashibon, akabon, kurohon, aohon, and kibyōshi, known collectively as kusazōshi (草双紙). Here we see eleven popular novels illustrated by 5 artists in the 1740s. This number is more than doubled in the 1750s, to 25 novels illustrated by 11 artists (three of which did the illustrations of one novel only, and one person only illustrated two novels). And in the 1760s this is more than quadrupled to 114 various kinds of novels illustrated by 12 artists (one being responsible for one work only, and another single person doing the illustrations of only two novels). So this is really booming, it seems.

[1] With the total production of 590 books in Kyoto and Osaka combined, versus 470 in Edo in the period 1727-49, and 1335 versus 1265 in the period 1750-74, this becomes 975 versus 1190 in the period 1775-1799, or even 510 versus 1130 in the period 1800-14.

Japanese Popular Print Culture – A Critical Review – 1730-50s (Appendix)


1730s Prints: 1) Nishimura Shigenobu [25]; 2) Torii Kiyomasu II [21]; 3) Okumura Masanobu [20]. ((66))

1730s Picture books: 1) Nishikawa Sukenobu [14/4]; 2) Takagi Sadatake [4/0/1]; 3) Okumura Masanobu [1/2]. ((26))

1740s Prints: 1) Okumura Masanobu [41]; 2) Torii Kiyomasu II / Torii Kiyonobu II [36]; 3) Ishikawa Toyonobu [30]. ((107))

1740s Picture books: 1) Nishikawa Sukenobu [29/0]; 2) Okumura Masanobu [3/15]; 3) Hasegawa Mitsunobu [7/0]. ((49))

1750s Prints: 1) Torii Kiyohiro [23]; 2) Ishikawa Toyonobu / Torii Kiyomitsu [22]; 3) Torii Kiyoshige [9]. ((67)) 1750s Picture books: 1) Hasegawa Mitsunobu [15/0]; 2) Ishikawa Toyonobu [7/5]/ Kitao Tatsunobu [12/0]; 3) Tsukioka Settei [9/1]. ((37))

Nishikawa Sukenobu’s (西川祐信) ehon of the 1730s: ((14 + 4 enpon)):

Nishikawa fude no yama (西川筆の山) 1 album, 1730s [1117]; Ehon Tsukubayama (繪本筑波山) 1 vol., I/1730 [M 60; 1119; Toda 133]; Ehon tatoegusa (繪本喩草) 3 vols., I/1731 [M 61; 1121; Toba 133]; Ehon tokiwagusa (繪本常盤草) 3 vols., VIII/1731 [M 62; 1120; Duret 79; Toda 131]; Onna fūzoku tamakagami (女風俗玉鏡) 2 vols., I/1732 [M 63; 1122]; Ehon minanogawa (繪本美柰能川) 1 vol., I/1733 [M 64; 1123]; Fūryū iromedoki (風流色□) 3 vols., 1733 [S 195]; Danshoku yamaji no tsuyu (男色山路露) 3 vols., c.1733 [S 172]; Nehan kyara makura (寝盤伽羅枕) 3 vols., c.1733 [S 178]; Yasa kurabe hana no sugatae (優競花の姿繪) 3 vols., c.1733 [S 209]; Ehon shimizu no ike (繪本清水の池) 3 vols., I/1734 [M 65; 1124; Toda 133]; Ehon arisoumi (繪本有磯海) 3 vols., I/1736 [M 66; 1125]; Ehon tama kazura (繪本玉かずら) 1 vol., I/1736 [M 67; 1126; Toda 134]; Ehon miyakodo’ri (繪本都鳥) 3 vols., c.1738 [1127]; Ehon yūsha kagami (繪本勇者鑑) 3 vols., I/1738 [M 71; 1128]; Ehon sonarematsu (繪本礎馴松) 1 vol., I/1738 [M 72; 1129]; Ehon asakayama (繪本浅香山) 1 vol., I/1739 [M 73; 1130; Duret 81]; Ehon ike no kokoro (繪本池の心) 3 vols., I/1739 [M 74; 1131].

Takagi Sadatake’s (高木貞武) ehon of the 1730s: ((4))Tokiwa hiinagata (常盤雛形) 3 vols., 1732 [839]; Ehon otogigusa (繪本御伽草) 3 vols., 1732 [840]; Ehon wakanoura (繪本和歌浦) 3 vols., 1734 [841]; Ehon buyū homaregusa (繪本武勇誉艸) 3 vols., 1734 [842]. No enpon

Okumura Masanobu’s (奥村政信) ehon of the 1730s: ((1 + 2 enpon)):

Ehon Kinryūzan Asakusa senbonzakura (繪本金龍山浅草千本櫻) 2 vols., 1734 [258]; Onna Shutendōji makurakotoba (女酒吞童子枕言葉) 3 vols., c.1737 [S 121]; Ono no otsū fumibunko (小野お津う文文庫) 3 vols., c.1738 [S 120].

Okumura Masanobu’s (奥村政信) ehon of the 1740s: ((3 + 15 enpon)):

Ehon Ogura nishiki (繪本小倉錦) 5 vols., 1740 [259; Duret 76-5; Toda 157]; Doji kaburomatsu (どうじかぶろ松) 3 vols., c.1742 [S 171]; Neya no hiinagata (閨の雛形) 12 oban, c.1742 [S 178]; Awajima hinagatazome (粟島島雛形染) 1 vol., c.1743 [S 76]; Tsurezuregusa monogatari yoru no kōshaku (徒然草物語夜講釈) 3 vols., c.1744 [S 169]; Enshoku – Kageboshi jūnidan (艶色-影法師十二段) 3 vols., c.1746 [S 126]; Zenaku – Uranai shigata Dōjōji (善悪-占仕形道成寺) 3 vols., c.1747 [S 88]; Enkō tora no maki (艶好虎之巻) 3 vols., c.1747 [S 98]; Shidōken koi no nazo hadaka hyakkan (志道軒戀の謎裸百貫) 1 album, c.1748 [S 152]; Shinoda denju no tama nanairo kitsune tenarai kagami (篠田傳授の玉七色狐手習鑑) 3 vols., c.1748 [S 152]; Yume monogatari – Tōkanmuri hana uirō (夢物語-唐冠華ういらう) 3 vols., c.1748 [S 171]; Enshoku – Azuma kagami (艶色-吾妻鑑) 5 vols., c.1748 [S 75], attrib.; Genkurō kitsune senbonzakura (源九郎狐千本櫻) 3 vols., 1749 [S 132]; Kaiawase – Hamaguri Genji kasengai (貝合-蛤源氏歌仙貝) 3 vols., 1749 [S 183]; Ehon fūga nana Komachi kinkishoga (繪本風雅七小町琴棋書画) 2 vols., 1740s [261]; Ehon bijingao no hiinagata sanjūnisō (繪本美人顔之雛形三十二相) 2 vols., 1740s [262].

Nishikawa Sukenobu’s (西川祐信) ehon of the 1740s: ((29)):

Ehon futa no oka (繪本双の岡) 1 vol., 1740 [1132]; Ehon chitose yama (繪本千歳山) 1 vol., 1740 [M 75; 1133]; Ehon tsurezuregusa (繪本徒然草) 3 vols., I/1740 [M 76; 1134]; Ehon asahiyama (繪本朝日山) 1 vol., 1741 [1135]; Ehon makuzugahara (繪本真葛が原) 3 vols., I/1741 [M 78; 1136]; Ehon chiyomigusa (繪本千代見草) 3 vols., III/1741 [M 79; 1137; Duret 88; Toda 135]; Ehon Izumigawa (繪本和泉川) 1 vol., I/1742 [M 80; 1138]; Ehon hime Komatsu (繪本姫小松) 3 vols., I/1742 [M 81; 1139]; Ehon Yamato hiji (繪本倭比事) 10 vols., I/1742 [M 82; 1140; Toda 136]; Ehon Yamato nishiki (繪本大和錦) 3 vols., I/1743 [M 83; 1141]; Ehon nezamegusa (繪本寝覚め種) 1 vol., I/1744 [M 84; 1142]; Ehon musha kōkan (繪本武者考鑑) 3 vols., 1744 [M 85; 1143]; Ehon ike no kawazu (繪本池の蛙) 3 vols., I/1745 [M 86; 1144]; Ehon hime Tsubaki (繪本女貞木) 3 vols., I/1745 [M 87; 1145]; Ehon wakakusayama (繪本若草山) 1 vol., I/1745 [M 88; 1146]; Ehon tsuru no sumika (繪本鶴のすみか) 1 vol., I/1746 [M 89; 1147]; Ehon Nishikawa Azuma warabe (繪本西川東童) 1 vol., 1746 [1148]; Ehon Miyako sōshi (繪本都草紙) 3 vols., I/1746 [M 91; 1149; Toda 141]; Ehon kame no oyama (繪本亀尾山) 3 vols., I/1747 [M 92; 1150; Toda 141]; Ehon kawanagusa (繪本河名草) 1 vol., I/1747 [M 93; 1151; Duret 82]; Ehon fudetsubana (繪本筆津花) 1 vol., I/1747 [M 94; 1152; Toda 142]; Ehon kaigasen (繪本貝歌仙) 3 vols., I/1748 [M 95; 1153]; Ehon hana no kagami (繪本花の鏡) 3 vols., I/1748 [M 96; 1154]; Ehon hana momiji (繪本花紅葉) 1 vol., 1748 [1155; Toda 142]; Ehon masukagami (繪本十寸鏡) 1 vol., I/1748 [M 98; 1156; Toda 142]; Ehon Ogurayama (繪本小倉山) 3 vols., I/1749 [M 99; 1157; Toda 142]; Ehon musha bikō (繪本武者備考) 3 vols., I/1749 [M 100; 1158]; Ehon Fukurokuju (繪本福禄寿) 1 vol., I/1749 [M 101; 1159]; Ehon yūbu kagami (繪本勇武鑑) 1 vol., I/1749 [M 102; 1160]. No enpon

Hasegawa Mitsunobu’s (長谷川光信) ehon of the 1740s: ((2)):

Ehon bunyū Shikishimadai (繪本文勇敷島台) 3 vols., 1748 [1245]; Daigaku Yamato kaishō (大学倭繪抄) 3 vols., 1748 [1246]. No enpon

Hasegawa Mitsunobu’s (長谷川光信) ehon of the 1750s: ((15)):

Ehon musha kabuto (繪本武者兜) 3 vols., 1750 [1247]; Ehon fuji no midori (繪本藤の緑) 3 vols., 1751 [1248; Toda 150?]; Ehon issei ando kusa (繪本一生安堵艸) 3 vols., 1751 [1249]; Ehon imayō hiji (繪本今様秘事) 2 vols., 1751 [1250]; Ehon meiboku Naniwatsu (繪本名木難波津) 2 vols., 1751 [1251]; Ehon eiyū kagami (繪本英勇鑑) 5 vols., 1751 [1252]; Ehon kaga otogi (繪本家賀御伽) 3 vols., 1752 [1253]; Ehon Naniwatsu (繪本難波津) 2 vols., 1752 [1254]; Ehon atsu? no gomi (繪本壓の塵) 3 vols., 1753 [1255]; Nihon sankai meibutsu zue (日本山海名物図絵) 5 vols., 1754 [1256]; Ehon otogi hyakka tomo (繪本御伽百哥友) 3 vols., 1754 [1257]; Ehon tohi mondō (繪本都鄙問答) 2 vols., 1755 [1258]; Ehon yoroigasen (繪本鎧歌仙) 6 vols., 1755 [1259]; Ehon buyū sakura (繪本武勇櫻) 2 vols., 1756 [1260]; Ehon zokusetsu mantoku nezumi (繪本俗説萬徳鼠) 3 vols., 1758 [1261]. No enpon

Ishikawa Toyonobu’s (石川豊信) ehon of the 1750s: ((6 + 5 enpon))

Iro keizu (色系図) 3 vols., c.1750 [S 81]; Sōka ehon (草花繪本) 1 vol., 1751 [28]; Ehon rigensō (繪本俚諺草) 3 vols., 1752 [29]; Ehon xxgusa (繪本□草) 2 vols., 1752 [30]; Ehon Azuma no mori (繪本東の森) 2 vols., 1752 [31]; Iro asobi (色あそび) 3 vols., c.1752 [S 81]; Iro tsu kagami (色通鑑) vols., 1753 [S 82]; Ehon mattekibana (繪本末摘花) 1 vol., 1757 [32]; Koshoku – Haru no kaze (好色 -春の風) 3 vols., c.1757 [S 184]; Ehon buyū tazuna (繪本武勇太図那) 3 vols., 1759 [33].

Kitao Tatsunobu’s (北尾辰宣) ehon of the 1750s: ((12)):

Shinobusuri (しのぶすり) 2 vols., 1750 [534]; Ehon Ōegishi (繪本大江岸) 2 vols., 1752 [535]; Ehon utai sugata (繪本謡姿) 3 vols., 1753 [536]; Ehon kotobukigusa (繪本壽き草) 3 vols., 1753 [537]; Ehon musha no umi (繪本武者海) 3 vols., 1754 [538]; Ehon musha heirin (繪本武者兵林) 3 vols., 1754 [539]; Ehon ura no chidori (繪本浦千鳥) 1 vol., 1755 [540]; Ehon xx?surigusa (繪本□摺り草) 2 vols., 1756 [541]; Ehon Yamato rongo (繪本倭論語) 3 vols., 1756 [542]; Ehon hyakunin isshu (繪本百人一首) 1 vol., 1757 [543]; Ehon chiyonegusa (繪本千代根艸) 1 vol., 1757 [544]; Ehon tama koi no ike (繪本玉濃池) 3 vols., 1758 [545]. No enpon

Tsukioka Settei’s (月岡雪鼎) ehon of the 1750s: ((9 + 1 enpon)):

Onna dairaku takarabeki (女大楽寶開) 1 vol., 1751 [S 121]; Ehon Tatsutayama (繪本龍田山) 3 vols., 1753 [969]; Yūjo gojūnin isshu (遊女五十人一首) 2 vols., 1753 [970; Toda 331]; Ehon kotoba no hana (繪本言葉花) 3 vols., 1754 [971]; Ehon wakaen (繪本和歌園) 3 vols., 1755 [972]; Onna buyū yosooi kura (女武勇粧競) 3 vols., 1757 [974; Toda 331]; Hanafuku hyakunin isshu (花福百人一首) 1 vol., 1758 [975]; Ehon hime bunko (繪本姫文庫) 5 vols., 1758 [976]; Ehon kōmei futabagusa (繪本高名二葉草) 3 vols., 1759 [977; Toda 332]; Ehon mushadan (繪本武者団) 3 vols., 1759 [978].

Japanese Popular Print Culture – A Critical Review – 1730-50s (Part 4)

A closer look at single prints in the 1730s through the 1750s – Perspective prints As for ukie, these seem to be an innovation that we owe to the visionary Okumura Masanobu, generally believed to date from 1739 onwards.[6] This date is based on a design after a theatrical performance in III/1739 of the play Hatsu motoyuitsū Soga (初鬠通曽我), staged at the Ichimura Theatre (KN 2:303), and also the Zoku dankai (続談海) records for the same year 1739 that ‘ukie are being published’ (浮繪出板行事). From then, their numbers increase, and the Annals of Edo in Musashi Province, Bukō nenpyō (武江年表, 1-151) confirm the existence of ukie in its general observations for the Enkyō Period (1744-1748).

These obvious references to the prints, alas, fail to give us an answer to the question why these were then being designed and made. Of course, being Dutch myself, I would like to see them as the Japanese alternative for the optica prints that were then imported into Japan in large numbers by the Dutch at Deshima.[7] But it is only from the 1760s and 1770s that we will see Japanese copies after European optica prints of the Canal Grande in Venice, the Forum Romanum, the Colossus of Rhodos, and many more hand-coloured copper plate prints of famous sites and European townscapes, mass-produced in Paris, London and Augsburg from the 1740s.

Earlier ukie all focus on Japanese scenery, be it a view of enjoying the evening cool at Ryōgokubashi, the interior of some kabuki theatre, a street lined on both sides with shops selling materials, a view of the main street of the Yoshiwara, or temple compounds. Moreover, most, if not all perspective prints, have a title and the names of their designer and publisher in a vertical band in the right hand margin. These would thus be readable for the operator of the ōkarakuri in which these prints would normally be shown at the time, a box-like apparatus equipped with magnifying lenses so people would look through these lenses and thus get something like a three-dimensional view of some cityscape. There is some pictorial evidence attesting to the existence of these ōkarakuri, also called ‘Dutch peeping boxes,’ Oranda ōkarakuri, in books of the period and, in fact, even suggesting that these were already in use at a much earlier date than we assign to ukie, as early as 1730.[8] So what did they show then? Their formats, especially the large ones that measure like 345 – 436 x 470 – 642 mms, seem rather appropriate for vistas to be shown to some audience in such an apparatus than as items that would be bought by private people who would keep them in some box together with their other prints. The smaller ones are of a slightly more modest size, measuring 240 – 278 x 395 – 413 mms, but also that is still pretty large.[2] It is only from the 1760s that perspective prints take the format of the standard ōban, and apparently start catering to a market of well-to-do citizens that may even own a zograscope themselves for viewing these prints, as we can see in a Harunobu print of the late 1760s.

In the first decades since they were first developed in 1739, most such ukie would either represent the interior of one of Edo’s kabuki theaters, or offer us a view of the main street of the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter seen through the entrance gate, Ōmonguchi. Their main designers are Okumura Masanobu (12), Tanaka Masunobu (5), Torii Kiyotada (2), Teigetsudō (1), Furuyama Moromasa (4), Nishimura Shigenobu (1), Nishimura Shigenaga (10), Torii Kiyohiro (1), Torii Kiyotada (2), Kōgetsudō (1), and Torii Kiyomitsu (1), for a total of some forty prints, mostly dating from the 1740s. However, their real flowering is from the 1760s and 1770s, when artists such as Utagawa Toyoharu make these his specialty, and later also, for some time, Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825), Kitao Masayoshi (1764-1824, act. 1780–), and Katsukawa Shunrō (1760-1849), the later Hokusai. No, perspective prints were not just some temporary vogue, they would even live on in the Japanese etching or copperplate tradition of the first half of the nineteenth century.

An overview of early Ukie, based on Higuchi and Kishi Fumikazu, Edo no enkinbō. Tokyo: Keisō Shobō, 1994, would give the following:

◊ Anonymous painting: Ichimuraza jōnai no zu (市村座場内之図), after the play Tokiwagi Taiheiki (瑞樹太平記), staged XI/1739 at the Ichimura Theatre (KN 2:306), published anonymously;

◊ Okumura Masanobu: Shibai kyōgen butai kaomise daiukie (芝居狂言舞台顔見世大浮繪), after the play Miyabashira Taiheiki (宮柱太平記), staged XI/1740 at the Nakamura Theatre (KN 2:314), published by Okumuraya Genroku [H52];

◊ Okumura Masanobu: Shin Yoshiwara Ōmonguchi Nakanochō ukie kongen (新吉原大門口中の町浮繪根元), after the situation in between the years 1741 and 1744, published by the Okumuraya;

◊ Okumura Masanobu: Shibai kyōgen ukie kongen (芝居狂言浮繪根元), after the play Futayosooi mitsugi Taiheiki (艤貢太平記), staged XI/1743 at the Nakamura Theatre (KN 2:422), published by Okumuraya Genroku;

◊ Okumura Masanobu: Shibai kyōgen ukie kongen (芝居狂言浮繪根元), after the play Sazareishi suehiro Genji (□末廣源氏), staged I/1744 at the Nakamura Theatre (KN 2:445), published by Okumuraya Genroku (?);

◊ Tanaka Masunobu: Untitled theatre interior, after the play Nanakusa wakayagi Soga (七種□曽我), staged Spring/1744 at the Ichimura Theatre (KN 2:446), published by Izutsuya Sanemon;

◊ Anonymous: Untitled theatre interior, after the play Kachō Taiheiki (花鳥太平記), staged XI/1744 at the Nakamura Theatre (KN 2:448), published by unknown;

◊ Torii Kiyotada: Untitled theatre interior, after a performance of Shibaraku (暫), staged XI/1744 at the xx Theatre (KN 2:000), published by Urokogataya;

◊ Okumura Masanobu: Shin Yoshiwara Ōmonguchi Nakanochō daiukie (新吉原大門口中の町大浮繪), after the situation in between the years 1744 and 1745, published by Okumuraya Genroku;

◊ Tanaka Masunobu, attrib.: Untitled, view of the Ōmonguchi of Shin Yoshiwara, after the situation in between the years 1744 and 1745, published by unknown;

◊ Furuyama Moromasa: Shin Yoshiwara Ōmon yuki no kei no iro (新吉原大門雪景色), after the situation in between the years 1744 and 1748, published by Igaya;

◊ Okumura Masanobu: Shibai kyōgen butai kaomise daiukie (芝居狂言舞台顔見せ大浮繪), after a performance of Yanone (矢の根), staged XI/1745 at the Nakamura Theatre (KN 2:479), published by Okumuraya Genroku;

◊ Tanaka Masunobu: Ichimuraza shin kyōgen (市村座新きょうげん), after the play Onna kusunoki yosooi kagami (□楠□粧鑑), staged XI/1745 at the Ichimura Theatre (KN 2:479), published by Izutsuya Sanemon;

◊ Okumura Masanobu: Shin Yoshiwara Ōmonguchi ukie kongen (新吉原大門浮繪根元), after the situation of circa 1745, published by Okumuraya Genroku; ◊ Tanaka Masunobu: Yoshiwara Nakanochō (吉原中の町), after the situation after the year 1745, published by Izutsuya Sanemon.

[6] Yet, Cal French in his monograph on Shiba Kōkan asserts that ‘the first uki-e, executed in Japan around 1734’ – apparently on the presumption that 1734 is the year of publication of Shimada Dōkan’s Kiku genpō chōken bengi (Understanding the Basic Rules for Viewing Towns with Compass and Ruler, 島田道桓:『規矩元法町見辨疑』), adapted after Abraham Bosse Algemeene manier van de Hr. Desargues tot de practyk der perspective gelijk tot die der meet-kunde. Amsterdam 1686.

[7] What is probably the first unmistakable record of the Dutch importing ‘a perspective with painting for the Lord of Suruga’ dates from VIII/1755, and  ‘a perspective with eighteen prints for the Lord of Sama (Saga?), and idem for the Lord of Shiga’ dates from 1759.

[8] See, for example, Hasegawa Mitsunobu: Ehon otogishina kagami of 1730.

[9] Interestingly, in the Kansai area, a smaller size was apparently in use, at least if we may accept that the many so-called meganee that Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-1795) painted from 1759 just to make a living – though he himself would later deny that – were used for showing in these karakuri. These only measure 205 x 270 mms. However, a printed one, hand-coloured and anonymous, is slightly larger, measuring 227 x 337 mm. It is titled Perspective View of the Large Room of a Teahouse (Ukie ageya ōzashiki), showing people partying in the large room of one of the teahouses in the Shimabara pleasure quarter in Kyoto, published by Kikuya xx? at Kyō Teramachidōri sanjō agaru xx?. Quite interestingly, it is pasted onto several layers of paper, so as to facilitate handling by the operator of the karakuri. As for the publisher – only the Kikuya is still readable, the rest is effaced from handling – this is not Kikuya Kihei, who is located at Teramachidōri Matsubara kudaru machi.  

Japanese Popular Print Culture – A Critical Review – 1730-50s (Part 3)

A closer look at single prints in the 1730s through the 1750s – Pillar prints We already saw three new developments in the format of single prints: the first examples of printing just two colours, the benizurie, from 1744, and pillar prints, or hashirae, as an experiment with a quite demanding surface to work with, and perspective prints, ukie, as a totally innovative way to represent a three-dimensional reality.

As for pillar prints, hashirae, Okumura Masanobu makes a claim to be the originator, hashirae kongen (はしら繪根元).[1] And, although this may well be justifiable, he no doubt was real innovative, both as a designer of prints and as a publisher, the three earliest datable examples should be identified with the designer Torii Kiyoshige (act. 1721-73) and with the publisher Urokogataya.[2] It is quite well possible that Masanobu, in his capacity of a publisher of prints, came up with the idea, maybe just discussing some ideas with his regular clients, and found himself sufficiently encouraged. And maybe he did issue some examples predating the earliest datable pillar prints. And then there is the suggestion that pillar prints just owe their invention to a simple accidental warping of a printing block, and making a publisher realize that one figure might be more attractive than a couple – quite well imaginable as Japanese printing blocks were cut xxxx. But it certainly was a risk to begin with, we must realize that prints of such a large size would certainly cost quite some money, if only because of the format of both the printing blocks and the size of the sheets of paper.

The earliest hashirae prints measure 638 – 738 x 146 – 262 mms., later, we also see some that even measure 1018 – 1050 x 162 – 163 mms. Yet, they seem to have been an almost immediate success, with six designs by Torii Kiyoshige datable to the years 1736-55, probably all published by Urokogataya; twenty-four by Okumura Masanobu datable to the years 1743-49, most likely all published by himself; ten by Nishimura Shigenaga, published by Tsuruya and Urokogataya in 1743; two by Furuyama Moromasa (act. 1690s-00); one by Torii Kiyonobu II; and at least thirty-four by Ishikawa Toyonobu datable to the years 1743-49, mostly published by Urokogataya, but some by Izumiya, Murataya, Nishimura, and Maruko. Yet, remarkably, we cannot, so far, identify any hashirae designed by Kiyomasu II. Later on, we would see much larger numbers, first by Torii Kiyomitsu, later by Harunobu, Isoda Koryūsai (act. 1767-80) and Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815, act. 1774-1800), indeed, pillar prints were not just some short-lived temporary vogue.

In chronological order, as far as we can get some idea of the beginning of hashirae based on datable examples, we get the following picture:

◊ Torii Kiyoshige: The actor Ichikawa Ebizō in the role of Shinozuka, Lord of Iga, in the play Junpū Taiheiki (順風太平記), staged XI/1736 at the Kawarazaki Theatre (KN 2:241), published by Urokogataya [H7];

◊ Torii Kiyoshige: Sanogawa Ichimatsu as the page Yoshida Jinnosuke in Myōto hoshi fuku Nagoya (女夫星福名古屋), staged VII/1742 at the Nakamura Theatre (KN 2:377), published by Urokogataya [H8];

◊ Torii Kiyoshige: Matsumoto Kōshirō as Fuwa Banzaemon in Myōto hoshi fuku Nagoya (女夫星福名古屋), staged VII/1742 at the Nakamura Theatre (KN 2:377), published by Urokogataya [H9];

◊ Okumura Masanobu: The actor Onoe Kikugorō as Yoshino, in Haru no akebono kuruwa Soga (春曙廓曽我), staged I/1743 at the Ichimura Theatre (KN 2:415), published by his own firm (Art Institute of Chicago) [H75];

◊ Nishimura Shigenaga: Sanogawa Ichimatsu as Hisamatsu in Monryoku tokiwa Soga (門緑常盤曽我), staged I/1743 at the Nakamura Theatre (KN 2:413), published by Urokogataya (Art Institute of Chicago) [H45];

◊ Ishikawa Toyonobu: Sanogawa Ichimatsu as Hisamatsu in Monryoku tokiwa Soga (門緑常盤曽我), staged I/1743 at the Nakamura Theatre (KN 2:413), published by Urokogataya [H4];

◊ Ishikawa Toyonobu: Sanogawa Ichimatsu as Hisamatsu in Monryoku tokiwa Soga (門緑常盤曽我), staged I/1743 at the Nakamura Theatre (KN 2:413), published by Izumiya [H3];

◊ Okumura Masanobu: Onoe Kikugorō as Kichisaburō, in reality Soga no Gorō in Nanakusa wakayagi Soga (七種わかやぎ曽我), staged Spring/1744 at the Ichimura Theatre (KN 2:446), published by his own firm [H76].

[1] I am aware that Julian Lee wants to interpret ‘kongen’ as ‘excellent, superb, outstanding,’ but I am afraid that I fail to see why.

[2] Already in 1921 and maybe even in the 1911 first edition that I don’t have at hand, Julius Kurth in his Der japanische Holzschnitt. München 19212, p. 37, identifies Kiyoshige as the first to design hashirae.

Japanese Popular Print Culture – A Critical Review – 1730-50s (Part 2)

Picture books in the years from the 1730s through the 1750s – General For much of this period, Nishikawa Sukenobu and Okumura Masanobu play a major role, Sukenobu ranking first with eighteen titles in the 1730s, and Okumura Masanobu ranking third, with only three titles. In the 1740s, Sukenobu is still holding the first position, now with twenty-nine titles, Masanobu following in the second position, indeed more seriously, with eighteen titles. Third is the Sukenobu pupil Hasegawa Mitsunobu with seven titles. In the 1750s, both Masanobu and Sukenobu are no longer to be found in the first three positions – Sukenobu dies in 1751, at the age of 81 years old. Hasegawa Mitsunobu, whom we saw in the third position in the 1740s, now leads with fifteen titles, and then we see some new names in the second position, such as Ishikawa Toyonobu (1711-1785, act. 1730s-79) and Kitao Tatsunobu (act. 1747-72), each with twelve titles, followed by the Osaka artist Tsukioka Settei (1710-1786, act. 1751-87) with ten titles in the third position. Anyway, the strong representation from the Kansai region that started with Sukenobu’s breakthrough in the 1710s is not over yet, and its lasting influence on Edo imagery is still to come.

Looking at the number of works of an erotic nature, in the 1730s there are only six titles (4 by Sukenobu, 1 by Takagi Sadatake [act. 1720-52], and 2 by Masanobu), versus nineteen of non-erotic content (14 by Sukenobu, 4 by Sadatake, and 1 by Masanobu). For the 1740s, these figures would be fifteen for erotic works, all by Masanobu, versus thirty-nine non-erotic works (29 by Sukenobu, 3 by Masanobu, and 7 by Mitsunobu). And for the 1750s, we can only identify six erotic works (5 by Toyonobu and 1 by Settei), versus forty-three non-erotic works (15 by Mitsunobu, 7 by Toyonobu and 12 by Tatsunobu, and another 9 by Settei).

As a consequence, we must conclude that works of an erotic nature make out only some 26% of the picture books issued in the years from the 1730s to the 1750s – remember, this was 77% in the 1710s. This might suggest that the Kyōhō Reforms did have some impact. If so, this would at least be temporarily, as the 1770s would see their greatest flowering in the eighteenth century – in numbers that is, percentagewise we will have to wait and see, this may well be different. It is also interesting to note that quite a number of designers seem to abstain completely from designing enpon, such as, for example, Nishimura Shigenaga, Torii Kiyomasu II, Hasegawa Mitsunobu, Torii Kiyonobu II (1706-1763, act. 1726-60), Takagi Sadatake, Torii Kiyomitsu, and Torii Kiyotsune.

Most interesting is yet another development that we can observe from the 1750s: the modest beginnings of professionals illustrating popular novels. The first, admittedly still weak sign of this, we can see in the circumstance that the eleven illustrated novels for the 1740s – with Yamamoto Shigeharu (act. 1740s-50s?) illustrating one aohon novel and three kurohon novels, Torii Kiyomitsu (1735-1785, act. 1752-78) doing the illustrations of two kurohon novels and one aohon novel, and Nishimura Shigenaga illustrating one novel of the ukiyosōshi type – are easily being doubled to twenty-five illustrated novels in the 1750s – with Kiyomitsu being responsible for illustrating two novels of the kurohon genre and three aohon novels, Torii Kiyomasu II (1706-1763, act. 1728-60) illustrating three kurohon novels and one aohon, and Torii Kiyotsune (act. 1758-80) two more aohon novels.

Figures such as eleven illustrated novels in the 1740s, or more than the double in twenty-five for the 1750s may still seem quite unimportant, but then they really more than quadruple and become like 114 in the 1760s. Indeed, Kiyotsune and Kiyomitsu would then be responsible for illustrating forty-three and forty popular novels respectively, and that still hardly compares with Tomikawa Ginsetsu Fusanobu (act. 1756-81) who would in the same 1760s illustrate no less than 126 popular novels – “Illustrated a few small books” is the comment in Roberts, p. 27, with many more to follow in the 1770s. — At some point, I will go into more detail in regard to the illustration of popular novels of various kinds.