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Of Brigands and Bravery

Kuniyoshi's Heroes of the Suikoden

Inge Klompmakers

Of brigands and bravery: Kuniyoshi’s heroes of the Suikoden is the first monograph in English on the stunning series of 74 prints illustrating figures from the Suikoden by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861), one of the outstanding Japanese woodblock-print masters of the 19th century.

The Suikoden (commonly known in English as The water margin) is the Japanese adaptation of the 14th-century Chinese vernacular novel, the Shui hu zhuan, which recounts the exploits of a group of rebels on Mount Liang (J. Ryösanpaku) under the lead of the brave and righteous Song Jiang. The Suikoden was enormously popular in Japan during the 19th century. It was Kuniyoshi’s initial designs for the single-sheet print series The one hundred and eight heroes of the popular Suikoden (Tsüzoku Suikoden göketsu hyakuhachinin no hitori) - in which the full-length portraits of the heroes are charged with a new sense of dynamism - that spurred a Suikoden craze in Edo (present-day Tokyo).

Of brigands and bravery reproduces the 74 known designs of the series in full colour; each is accompanied by an explanatory text. The publication also offers supplementary information on topics relating specifically to the series such as tattooing: a number of the Suikoden figures are adorned with tattoos and it is thought that Kuniyoshi himself had a passion for this art. In addition, Kuniyoshi’s illustration of a variety of armour and dress types, his at times graphic portrayal of the heroes in battle and his integration of western stylistic devices are testimony to the creative genius behind the Suikoden series.

Joshua S. Mostow and Asato Ikeda

Gender relations were complex in Edo-period Japan (1603–1868). Wakashu, male youths, were desired by men and women, constituting a “third gender” with their androgynous appearance and variable sexuality. For the first time outside Japan, A Third Gender examines the fascination with wakashu in Edo-period culture and their visual representation in art, demonstrating how they destabilize the conventionally held model of gender binarism.

The volume will reproduce, in colour, over a hundred works, mostly woodblock prints and illustrated books from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries produced by a number of designers ranging from such well-known artists as Okumura Masanobu, Suzuki Harunobu, Kitagawa Utamaro and Utagawa Kunisada, to lesser known artists such as Shigemasa, Eishi and Eiri. A Third Gender is based on the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum, which houses the largest collection of Japanese art in Canada, including more than 2,500 woodblock prints.

Nozomi Naoi and Sabine Schenk

Takehisa Yumeji (1884–1934) remains today one of the most celebrated Japanese artists. His unique style — characterised by a romantic, melancholic image of women—has remained popular with contemporary Japanese audiences. The six museums dedicated to his work as painter, printmaker and illustrator are testimony to his enduring appeal. Takehisa Yumeiji is the first publication outside Japan devoted to Yumeji's life and art. It chronicles the individuality of his art practice as well as the diverse sources of his creative inspiration, ranging from traditional Japanese ukiyo-e print designers such as Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806) to Western graphic design and modern art movements such as Jugendstil and Cubism. This fully illustrated volume features over one hundred and eighty works drawn from the Nihon no Hanga museum in Amsterdam, which boasts the largest collection of Yumeji prints outside Japan.

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.

Yoshitoshi

Masterpieces from the Ed Freis Collection

Edited by Chris Uhlenbeck and Amy Reigle Newland

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–1892) created some of the most spectacular designs in 19th century Japanese woodblock prints. The last comprehensive overview of Yoshitoshi’s work was published almost twenty years ago, but advances in scholarship since then have resulted in a re-evaluation of his work. This publication draws from the Ed Freis collection, which was assembled over the course of thirty years. It illustrates numerous works from Yoshitoshi’s early career, including several prints that have to date not appeared in Western language catalogues.

The two essays in the volume by Chris Uhlenbeck and Amy Reigle Newland take new approaches in the discussion of the art and life of Yoshitoshi, and depend little on the usual, at times dubitable, sources frequently used to paint a portrait of the artist. Chris Uhlenbeck offers insight into Yoshitoshi through a discussion of extant prints. He charts the development of Yoshitoshi’s work from the late 1850s, when he received his first substantial commissions from various publishers, to his death at the age fifty-three in 1892. Amy Reigle Newland establishes Yoshitoshi’s position among his peers using contemporary accounts found in types of popular guidebooks known as nazorae saiken(ki) (‘riddle guidebooks’) and in the emerging press.

The more than 160 illustrations in the volume are fully annotated. Ed Freis has selected a handful of Yoshitoshi’s signature works to highlight the details of process and variant editions. Maureen de Vries succinctly describes the often complex, layered iconography of Yoshitoshi’s imagery. Robert Schaap has created a valuable pictorial appendix of all Yoshitoshi’s documented serial works.