Category Archives: Kuchi-e woodblock prints

SCHOOLGIRL SKETCHING OUTDOORS (Mizuno Toshikata)

The artist Mizuno Toshikata (水野年方) played a key role in the transition from traditional ukiyo-e (浮世絵) to the woodblock prints of modern Japan. This delicate kuchi-e (口絵) frontispiece is an example of this: the schoolgirl depicted here while sketching outdoors, with her hisashigami (庇髪) hairstyle, the comfortable hakama (袴) pants and a western parasol, is the icon of a new conception of femininity.

The work, taken from vol. 9 n. 9 of the famous literary magazine Bungei Kurabu (文芸倶楽部), was printed in 1903 by the Hakubunkan (博文館) publishing house and is titled “Beauty sketching in the suburbs” (美人の郊外写生).

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A LATE AUTUMN SHOWER (Yamanaka Kodo)

Beautiful woodblock print of the kuchi-e (口絵) type, taken from vol. 7 n. 16 of the famous literary magazine Bungei Kurabu (文芸倶楽部) and made by the artist Yamanaka Kodo (山中古洞) as the frontispiece of the novel “A Late Autumn Shower” (片時雨).

Yamanaka Kodo (1869 – 1945) was one of the last students of Tsukiyoka Yoshitoshi (月岡芳年). His artistic activity ranged from kuchi-e to prints depicting bijin (美人) and landscapes. In the last part of his life he concentrated on the production of woodcuts depicting famous actresses.

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EMPRESS TOKUKO (Mizuno Toshikata)

The Empress Taira no Tokuko (平徳子), depicted here in Heian (平安) style with long black hair falling on a magnificent junihitoe (十二単) kimono, became a nun after the death of her five-year-old son in the naval battle of Dannoura (壇ノ浦の戦い). The artist Mizuno Toshikata (水野年方) creates a strong duality with the sumptuousness of the figure in the foreground and, in the background, the simplicity of the ascetic life that she would lead with two other nuns in a hermitage in the northern outskirts of Kyoto (京都).

The kuchi-e (口絵) type woodblock print was made as a frontispiece of the novel entitled “The Jakkoin Temple” (寂光院) by the writer Miyake Seiken (三宅青軒).

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IRIS (Suzuki Kason)

Elegant kuchi-e (口絵) frontispiece, made in 1907 by the artist Suzuki Kason (鈴木華邨) and entitled “Iris” (あやめ). The work, depicting a bijin (美人) beauty in the wonderful setting of a field of iris flowers in the month of May, is taken from vol. 13 n. 7 of the famous literary magazine Bungei Kurabu (文芸倶楽部).

Suzuki Kason (1860 – 1919), although known to collectors mainly for his xylographic frontispieces, indeed rather rare to find, was above all a prolific painter of traditional style, as well as a member of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts (帝国美術院).

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FINE BAMBOO BLINDS (Mizuno Toshikata)

Beautiful kuchi-e (口絵) woodblock print made in 1906 by the artist Mizuno Toshikata (水野年方) as a frontispiece of the novel “Iyosudare” (伊予簾), or the fine bamboo blinds of Iyo, published in vol. 12 n. 11 of the famous literary magazine Bungei Kurabu (文芸倶楽部). In the foreground, a young woman with hair and clothes ruffled by the breath of a pleasant summer breeze.

Mizuno Toshikata (1866 – 1908), a pupil of Tsukiyoka Yoshitoshi (月岡芳年), was a traditional genre painter much appreciated by his contemporaries. Active especially in the production of front pages for novels, as well as woodcuts depicting historical subjects and beautiful women, he gathered around him and formed young talents such as Kiyokata Kaburagi (鏑木清方). Member of the Nihon Bijutsu Kyokai (日本美術協会), in 1906 he participated to the Universal Exposition in Paris.

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PERSIMMON SELLER (Takeuchi Keishu)

Refined original woodblock print of the kuchi-e (口絵) type, made in 1906 by the artist Takeuchi Keishu (武内桂舟), one of the most talented students of the famous Tsukiyoka Yoshitoshi (月岡芳年), and entitled “Persimmon Seller” (杮売).

The work is taken from Bungei Kurabu (文芸倶楽部), the popular literary magazine published from 1895 to 1933 by the Hakubunkan (博文館) publishing house.

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SILHOUETTE OF NIGHTINGALE (Suzuki Kason)

Fine kuchi-e (口絵) frontispiece, made in 1909 by the artist Suzuki Kason (鈴木華邨) for the novel “Silhouette of Nightingale” (鳥かげ). The work is taken from vol. 15 n. 3 of the famous literary magazine Bungei Kurabu (文芸倶楽部), published by Hakubunkan (博文館).

Suzuki Kason (1860 – 1919), although known to collectors mainly for his xylographic frontispieces, indeed rather rare to find, was above all a prolific painter of traditional style, as well as a member of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts (帝国美術院).

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COLLECTION OF SEVEN HERBS (Kajita Hanko)

Polychrome woodblock print of the kuchi-e (口絵) type depicting a woman looking at a child walking away towards the sunset and made in 1903 by the artist Kajita Hanko (梶田半古) as a frontispiece of the collection of short stories “Nanakusashu” (七草集), or “Collection of Seven Herbs”, by the writer Kusamura Hokusei (草村北星).

Kajita Hanko (1870 – 1917), husband of the female author Kitada Usurai (北田薄氷), was a unique hanga (版画) artist in the golden age of kuchi-e prints. He introduced, in fact, in the genre a fresh and richly emotional humanity.

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THE SAKURADAMON GATE (Kawai Gyokudo)

Polychrome woodblock print of the kuchi-e (口絵) type entitled “Snow outside the Sakuradamon Gate” (桜田門外の雪), made around 1930 by Kawai Gyokudo (川合玉堂) and depicting the largest of the gates of the Imperial Palace (皇居) in Tokyo that was the scene, in March 1860, of the famous assassination of the daimyo of Hikone (彦根), Ii Naosuke (井伊直弼), by a group of ronin samurai of the Mito Domain (水戸藩).

Kawai Gyokudo (1873 – 1957) is the pseudonym of Kawai Yoshisaburo (川合芳三郎). Born in Ichinomiya (一宮), in 1887 he moved to Kyoto to study painting with Kono Bairei (幸野楳嶺) in the style of the Shijo school (四条派). From 1896 he was in Tokyo as a student of Hashimoto Gaho (橋本雅邦) of the Kano school (狩野派). He also studied western painting and developed a very personal style, particularly in the field of landscape painting in which he synthesized aspects of the Shijo and Kano schools’ styles and techniques with realistic motifs deriving from Western painting.

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MURDERESS AND SAMURAI (Suzuki Kinsen)

Compelling polychrome woodblock print of the kuchi-e (口絵) type, made in the early ‘900 by the artist Suzuki Kinsen (鈴木錦泉) and depicting the murder of a samurai who has just been unsaddled by a woman who assails him with a tanto (短刀) knife.

Suzuki Kinsen (1867 – 1945) was born in Wakayama (和歌山) and began his artistic studies in the context of nanga (南画), a pictorial school that flourished in the late Edo period (江戸時代) among artists who considered themselves intellectuals or literates. In order to make his talent financially profitable, he later turned to the study, by himself, of the ukiyo-e (浮世絵) genre thus becoming a highly appreciated illustrator of novels.

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