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Waves of renewal: modern Japanese prints, 1900 to 1960

Selections from the Nihon no Hanga collection, Amsterdam

Chris Uhlenbeck, Amy Newland and Maureen de Vries

Waves of renewal traces the history of Japanese printmaking following an era of decline beginning in the late nineteenth century. The early twentieth century witnessed the emergence of two principal printmaking movements. The first— shin hanga (new print)—reinvented and revitalised the conventional genres of landscape, beauties and actors. Shin hanga adhered to a traditional production method that was based on the cooperation between artist, block-cutter, printer and publisher. At the same time, it strove to forge a new visual language in both style and technique. The second— sōsaku hanga (creative print)—was inspired by the dialogue between Western and Japanese art and aesthetics. In the main, sōsaku hanga adherents advocated the participation of the artist in the entire creative process from design to production.

Waves of renewal is the most comprehensive publication to date to focus on the holdings of the Nihon no hanga collection in Amsterdam. The 277 prints included showcase the sophistication of shin hanga and the boldness of sōsaku hanga. An introductory essay sets the stage, followed by ten shorter essays by noted scholars in the field that centre on aspects integral to our understanding of early to mid-twentieth century Japanese printmaking. Each print is documented and annotated in the extensive catalogue section.

Contributors:
Chris Uhlenbeck; Amy Reigle Newland; Shōichirō Watanabe; Setsuko Abe; Kendall H. Brown; Mikiko Hirayama; Junko Nishiyama; Chiaki Ajioka; Noriko Kuwahara; Kiyoko Sawatari; Maureen de Vries

Japonius Tyrannus

The Japanese Warlord Oda Nobunaga Reconsidered

Series:

Jeroen P. Lamers

Oda Nobunaga (1534-82) is one of the best-known figures in Japanese history. However, no standard biography existed on this warlord who was the prime mover behind Japan's military and political unification in the late 16th century. Japonius Tyrannus fills the gap in our knowledge about Nobunaga, and the chronological narrative providesa thorough analysis of his political and military career.

The Harunobu Decade

A Catalogue of Woodcuts by Suzuki Harunobu and his followers in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

David Waterhouse

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is home to the world’s largest and richest collection of works by Suzuki Harunobu (1725?–70), the first great artist of the full-colour Japanese woodcut ( nishiki-e). This complete and very detailed catalogue, compiled and revised intermittently over forty years, describes and illustrates in colour 721 single-sheet prints, including 589 by Harunobu himself. Most of these designs were produced in the 1760s, the majority during the six years from 1765 to 1770. Harunobu is famous for his sylph-like young women (and young men); but, as the catalogue shows, his range was astonishingly wide. His work is notable for its witty allusions, sometimes concealed, to classical Japanese and Chinese poetry, Nō drama, Japanese and Chinese folklore and history, and events and personalities of the day. These allusions are explained in the catalogue, often for the first time.
A lengthy Introduction places Harunobu’s life and work in context, explains the principles applied in dating the prints, and summarises previous studies. In the Catalogue itself, all quoted poems are transliterated and translated into English, usually according to the original metre; and in addition to background historical information the commentaries include, as far as possible, references to other known specimens and states. Descriptions of prints issued as sets appear under the first entry for each, often accompanied by a summary table, and with what on occasion amounts to a free-standing essay. A series of Appendixes contains indexes of Chinese, Korean and Japanese characters, a glossary of names and terms, and lists of institutional and private collections. The extensive Bibliographies list books illustrated by Harunobu himself, pre-modern Japanese publications, and modern publications in Japanese and other languages. The book concludes with a comprehensive Index.

Kunisada's Tōkaidō

Riddles in Japanese Woodblock Prints

Andreas Marks

The Tōkaidō highway, connecting Edo with Kyoto, was the most vital thoroughfare in Japan. Its cultural presence in pre- to early modern Japanese society led to the publication of woodblock print series, such as the widely known landscape prints by Hiroshige, that took this famous road as their theme.
The prints of Utagawa Kunisada, the most sought-after woodblock print designer of his day, represent a different treatment of the Tōkaidō, in which popular kabuki actors in specific roles are paired with Tōkaidō post stations. This study discusses the phenomenon of serialization in Japanese prints outlining its marketing mechanisms and concepts. It then proceeds to unravel Kunisada’s pairings of post-stations and kabuki roles,
which served as puzzles for his audience to decipher. Finally, this study analyses Kunisada’s methods when he invented and developed these patterns.
Kunisada’s Tōkaidō is a valuable visual source for the print collector, illustrating over 700 prints and it has been selected for an Honorable Mention at the 2014 IFPDA (International Fine Print Dealers Association) Book Award.

Shunga

Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art

Edited by Timothy Clark, C. Andrew Gerstle, Aki Ishigami and Akiko Yano

In early modern Japan, 1600–1900, thousands of sexually explicit paintings, prints, and illustrated books with texts were produced, known as ‘spring pictures’ (shunga). Frequently tender, funny and beautiful, shunga were mostly produced within the popular school known as ‘pictures of the floating world’ (ukiyo-e), by celebrated artists such as Utamaro and Hokusai. Early modern Japan was certainly not a sex-paradise; however, the values promoted in shunga are generally positive towards sexual pleasure for all. Official life in this period was governed by strict Confucian laws, but private life was less controlled in practice.
Shunga is in some ways a unique phenomenon in pre-modern world culture, in terms of the quantity, the quality and the nature of the art that was produced. This catalogue of a major exhibition at the British Museum marks the culmination of a substantial international research project and aims to answer some key questions about what shunga was and why it was produced. In particular the social and cultural contexts for sex art in Japan are explored.
Erotic Japanese art was heavily suppressed in Japan from the 1870s onwards as part of a process of cultural ‘modernisation’ that imported many contemporary western moral values. Only in the last twenty years or so has it been possible to publish unexpurgated examples in Japan and this ground-breaking publication presents this fascinating art in its historical and cultural context for the first time.
Drawing on the latest scholarship from the leading experts in the field and featuring over 400 images of works from major public and private collections, this landmark book looks at painted and printed erotic images produced in Japan during the Edo period (1600–1868) and early Meiji era (1868–1912). These are related to the wider contexts of literature, theatre, the culture of the pleasure quarters, and urban consumerism; and interpreted in terms of their sensuality, reverence, humour and parody.

This title is only available through Hotei Publishing in the United States of America, Canada and the Philippines.

Matthi Forrer

Surimono (literally ‘printed things’) constitute one of the most delicate genres in Japanese printmaking. This genre fascinates because it combines poetry and image and because it presents a pictorial puzzle, which provides the viewer with a particular insight into the intellectual and literary world of late 18th- and early 19th-century Edo (today’s Tokyo). Major artists such as Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Kunisada, Totoya Hokkei and Yashima Gakutei, to name but a few, provided imagery to accompany the poetic exploits of poetry club members. The prints were circulated among networks of poets and friends and, in contrast to other prints of the period, were not produced for commercial gain. Intricate still lifes, historical and mythical heroes, actors on the stage and tranquil landscapes form a
visual partnership with the witty poems ( kyōka). The beauty of these prints is enhanced by the astonishing printing quality, including the use of metallic pigments and blindprinting.
The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam is home to one of the most important collections of surimono in the world. Two recent major donations have enriched the collection to such a degree that a publication documenting the complete surimono holdings of the museum is justified. The true beauty of the collection can now be appreciated in full, with all the prints illustrated in colour for the first time.
Matthi Forrer’s deep understanding of poetry circles and of the major artists of the time has resulted in numerous revisions of the existing descriptions and of previously established chronologies within the genre.
Surimono in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam is thus an essential work of reference and at the same time a source of endless aesthetic enjoyment.

Andreas Marks

Genji's world in Japanese Woodblock Prints provides the first comprehensive overview of Genji prints, an exceptional subject and publishing phenomenon among Japanese woodblock prints that gives insight into nineteenth-century Japan and its art practices.
In the late 1820s, when the writer Ryūtei Tanehiko (1783–1842), the print designer and book illustrator Utagawa Kunisada (1786–1865) and the publisher Tsuruya Kiemon sat down together in Edo to plot the inaugural chapter of the serial novel A Rustic Genji by a Fraudulent Murasaki (Nise Murasaki inaka Genji), it is doubtful that any one of them envisioned that their actions would generate a new genre in Japanese woodblock prints that would flourish until the turn of the century, Genjie (“Genji pictures”). During these sixty years, over 1,300 original designs were created, of which many were very popular at their time of release.
The story of A Rustic Genji, set in fifteenth-century Japan, is in many respects drawn from Murasaki Shikibu’s (c.973–1014/25) classic novel The Tale of Genji from the early eleventh century.
As the foremost collection of prints of this subject, the extensive holdings of Paulette and Jack Lantz provided the majority of images necessary for this publication.

Splendid Impressions

Japanese Secular Painting 1400-1900, in the Museum of East Asian Art Cologne

Doris Croissant

This publication focuses on the collection of Japanese secular painting in the Museum of East Asian Art in Cologne, a large part of which was acquired by the museum’s founders Adolf and Frieda Fischer before 1913. Six internationally renowned specialists of Japanese art present new insights and approaches to pre-modern Japanese visual culture in this exquisitely illustrated catalogue.

The publication is divided into two parts: the first section discusses the reception of Japanese art and the dawn of East Asian art history in Germany, as well as shedding new light on the role of the monk painter as mediator between Chinese and Japanese concepts of secular art.

The main body of the publication is the catalogue section. Here, 94 works (divided into seven subject categories) are presented: hand scrolls, fans, hanging scrolls and folding screens. All works are reproduced in full colour, many scrolls being shown in their entirety. Each chapter is preceded by an introduction, elucidating the historiographical, aesthetic and methodological questions that are central to current research in the visual culture of pre-modern Japan. The illuminating entries are followed by a comprehensive appendices section, including photographs of the paintings’ signatures, seals and transcriptions of the inscriptions in the paintings.
Splendid Impressions will serve as a reference source not only for curators, scholars and students of Japanese art and culture, but also for anyone who has a personal interest in Japanese painting.

Andreas Marks

Japanese woodblock prints exemplified by such iconographic images as Hokusai’s Great Wave, Hiroshige’s Heavy Rain on Ohashi bridge, or Utamaro’s enticing beauties, constitute one of the most important and influential art forms in art history.

Today, the names of these artists themselves are celebrated throughout the world, and yet very little is known about the publishers of these artworks, despite the fact that they played a crucial role in the production, visual appearance and actual distribution of the works within the highly commercial world of Japanese printmaking. It was the publisher who gauged the markets, commissioned the artists and took on the risks of production. Once a design was completed by an artist, it was the publisher who coordinated the production process, farming out the work to the block carvers and printers, and also managed the distribution of the prints in the appropriate markets.

This volume champions the publisher – the enabler – without whom the great artworks which influenced painters like Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh and others, would never have been produced.

Publishers of Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Compendium focuses on the production process of Japanese woodblock prints with an emphasis on the role of the publisher. This publication presents over 1,100 publishers, with comprehensive lists of publications by a total of 572 artists and facsimiles of over 2300 publisher seals, spanning a time period from the 1650s to the 1990s.
The publisher entries include details on the residence of a publisher, his clientele, the period of his commercial activity as well as a list of issued print series in chronological order. This listing offers insight into the status and versatility of a publisher, as well as indicating the publisher’s specialities, favoured artists and the particular strategies pursued. With almost 600 pages of information on the publishers of Japanese woodblock prints, this publication is an essential reference work for scholars and collectors of Japanese prints alike.

The Beauty of Silence

Japanese Nō and Nature Prints by Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927)

Robert Schaap and J. Thomas Rimer


The Beauty of Silence. Japanese Nō and Nature Prints by Tsukioka Kōgyo (1867-1927) is the first monograph in English on Tsukioka Kōgyo, one of the lesser-known exponents of Japanese woodblock prints of the Meiji period (1868-1912). This publication exposes Kōgyo’s life and work, presenting a detailed and abundantly-illustrated overview of his rich oeuvre of prints and paintings, and places them in the context of his times. For the first time, Kōgyo’s life and work are accessible to readers throughout the world.
Kōgyo is particularly well-known for his many depictions of the Nō, Japan’s elegant and poetic theatrical form, dating back to medieval times. Performances of Nō continue to have wide audiences even today, with admirers not only in Japan, but throughout Asia, Europe and the United States.
Kōgyo often created unusual images of the theatrical productions he attended, and his prints provide fascinating visual clues and insights into how these classic plays were actually performed during his lifetime. In these theatrical prints, Kōgyo created images of an evocative beauty that are comparable with the work of some of the great artists in the European tradition who also recorded the theatrical practices of their times.
The Beauty of Silence illustrates a range of Kōgyo’s works on a variety of subjects, including landscapes, as well as samples of his art created in other media. The publication includes his biography, historical information on the Nō, a detailed analysis of the prints, and useful information on each of the Nō plays pictured. The appendices section includes listings of more than a hundred artist-seals used by Kōgyo, an index of Nō plays and illustrations of all 120 prints belonging to Kōgyo’s famous print series Nōgaku hyakuban (One Hundred Nō Plays).
This book, with almost 400 full color illustrations, will be of wide interest both to lovers of woodblock prints and to those interested in the power and beauty of Japan’s theatrical traditions.