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Shirakaba and Japanese Modernism

Art Magazines, Artistic Collectives, and the Early Avant-garde

Erin Schoneveld

Shirakaba and Japanese Modernism examines the most significant Japanese art and literary magazine of the early twentieth century, Shirakaba (White Birch, 1910–1923) and its founder, the Shirakaba-ha (White Birch Society). In this volume Erin Schoneveld explores the fluid relationship that existed between different types of modern visual media, exhibition formats, and artistic practices embraced by the Shirakaba-ha (White Birch Society). Schoneveld provides a new comparative framework for understanding how the avant-garde pursuit of individuality during Japan’s Taishō period stood in opposition to state-sponsored modernism and how this played out in the emerging media of art magazines. This book analyzes key moments in modern Japanese art and intellectual history by focusing on the artists most closely affiliated with Shirakaba, including Takamura Kōtarō, Umehara Ryūzaburō, and Kishida Ryūsei, who selectively engaged with and transformed modernist idioms of individualism and self-expression to create a new artistic style that gave visual form to their own subjective reality. Drawing upon archival research that includes numerous articles, images, and exhibitions reviews from Shirakaba, as well as a complete translation of Yanagi Sōetsu’s seminal essay, “The Revolutionary Artist” ( Kakumei no gaka), Schoneveld demonstrates that, contrary to the received narrative that posits Japanese modernism as merely derivative, the debate around modernism among Japan’s early avant-garde was lively, contested, and self-reflexive.
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Dancer, Nun, Ghost, Goddess

The Legend of Giō and Hotoke in Japanese Literature, Theater, Visual Arts, and Cultural Heritage

Series:

Roberta Strippoli

Dancer, Nun, Ghost, Goddess explores the story of the dancers Giō and Hotoke, which first appeared in the fourteenth-century narrative Tale of the Heike. The story of the two love rivals is one of loss, female solidarity, and Buddhist salvation. Since its first appearance, it has inspired a stream of fiction, theatrical plays, and visual art works. These heroines have become the subjects of lavishly illustrated hand scrolls, ghosts on the noh stage, and Buddhist and Shinto goddesses. Physical monuments have been built to honor their memories; they are emblems of local pride and centerpieces of shared identity. Two beloved characters in the Japanese literary imagination, Giō and Hotoke are also models that have instructed generations of women on how to survive in a male-dominated world.
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Hilary Chapman and Libby Horner

Yoshijiro Urushibara: A Japanese printmaker in London is a catalogue raisonné of the work of Yoshijiro Urushibara (1889–1953), a Japanese artist and craftsman who lived and worked in London from 1910 to 1940. During his thirty years in Europe, Urushibara produced a considerable number of prints and played a major role in encouraging the production and appreciation of the colour woodcut in the Japanese manner, especially in Britain. Throughout his career Urushibara contributed to cross-cultural interactivity, collaborating with several European artists. His most famous and successful collaboration was with the British artist Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956).
The authors had unique access to the artist’s family archive in Tokyo and recorded and evaluated the extent of Urushibara’s print production. With fully researched catalogue entries, full-colour illustrations, and illuminating biographical and contextual essays, this publication – the first of its kind in the English language - provides a comprehensive account of Urushibara’s life and oeuvre.
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David R. Weinberg

Kuniyoshi The Faithful Samurai is a pioneering publication which deals with the most famous series – the Seichū gishi den (1847-48) and its sequel the Seichū gishin den (1848) – of the forty-seven masterless samurai ( rōnin) by artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861). The true 18th-century tale of revenge by forty-seven rōnin for the death of their lord was enormously popular in Japan: it was dramatised for the Kabuki theatre and its heroes were often depicted in ukiyo-e prints. Kuniyoshi was a master in the genre of warrior prints, and his series expressively portrays these warrior ‘folk heroes’. Dr. Weinberg’s book also includes translations of the texts which appear on the prints and which recount each hero’s exploits. In addition, there are photographs of the relics of the masterless samurai and the ruins of their castle in Akō.
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Marije Jansen

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) designed a series of 70 landscapes depicting the provinces of Japan between 1854 and 1856. It was the first of a number of sets from the highly productive years of his later life. The designs comprising Famous places in the 60-odd provinces ( Rokuju yoshu meisho zue) are taken from all corners of Japan. Designs published before this series had already depicted the famous routes between Edo and Kyoto, the Tokaido and the Kisokaido, and various well known locations such as the famous waterfalls, Lake Omi and the Jewel Rivers, but a series on such a grand scale devoted to the provincies was a novelty. It evidently met with critical acclaim as the publishers Koshimuraya Heisuke issued several editions.
In this study, the author Marije Jansen briefly discusses Hiroshige's life and the formal aspects of this series. Jansen takes as her point of departure the set in possession of the German collector Gerhard Pulverer, which is generally acknowledged to be a superb example of a first edition, and compares this series to a number of other sets in public and private collections. The detectable printing variations in each design are carefully analysed, making this an indispensable tool for collectors.
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Laura Moretti

In Recasting the Past: An Early Modern Tales of Ise for Children Laura Moretti recreates in image and text the unresearched 1766 picture-book Ise fūryū: Utagaruta no hajimari (The Fashionable Ise: The Origins of Utagaruta). The introduction analyses Utagaruta through a discussion of the textual scholarship relating to chapbooks and kusazōshi. It also contextualizes this work to shed new light on the reception history of the canonical Tales of Ise and to position Utagaruta within the realm of children’s literature. This is followed by the full transcription and translation of Utagaruta, with annotations to each image. Learned and visually rich, Moretti’s study permits the reader to enjoy the inventiveness and beauty of early modern Japanese literature.
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Robert Schaap

Utagawa Kunisada (1786–1865) was one of the most successful Japanese woodblock print designers of his age. With an estimated output of some twenty-five thousand prints during a career spanning almost sixty years Kunisada was a towering figure in the sphere of ukiyo-e. His versatility and inventiveness extended across genres, from the stars of the kabuki stage to the women from the pleasure districts, the world of entertainment and the everyday, as well as landscapes, warriors and literary themes.

Kunisada was greatly respected during his lifetime as a print designer of the Utagawa school and as the head of a successful studio with students, such as Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900), who would carry the tradition of woodblock prints into the Meiji period (1868–1912). Yet scholars, collectors and connoisseurs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries dismissed him and many of his contemporaries as ‘decadent’. And in recent decades his achievements have often been overshadowed by his contemporary Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797−1861). Kunisada: imaging drama and beauty offers a fresh perspective on this ukiyo-e master, demonstrating the high calibre of his art with prints, paintings and books sourced from international public and private collections. Although the over one hundred and fifty works in the publication represent only a small part of Kunisada’s vast oeuvre, they serve to convey his skill in capturing and imagining Japanese popular culture of the first half of the nineteenth century.

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John Stevenson

Taisō Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) was the most popular woodblock artist of his day. Customers lined up on the day of publication for his prints of historical characters and beautiful women. His career, which introduced subtle psychological observation to the artistic and representational world of ukiyo-e, straddled the tumultuous late Edo and early Meiji periods. Yoshitoshi was fascinated by the supernatural, and some of his best work concerns ghosts, monsters, and charming animal transmutations. Yoshitoshi’s strange tales presents two series that focus on his depictions of the weird and magical world of the transformed. The first series dates from the beginning and the second from the end of the artist’s abbreviated career, encapsulating his artistic development. One Hundred Tales of Japan and China ( Wakan hyaku monogatari) of 1865 is based on a game in which people told short scary ghost tales in a darkened room, extinguishing a candle as each tale ended. New Forms of Thirty-six Strange Things ( Shinken sanjūrokkaisen) of 1889-92 illustrates stories from Japan’s rich heritage of legends in more serene and objective ways. The book opens with a study of Japanese ghost prints and analysis of Yoshitoshi’s changing treatments of the genre, and reproduces three rare paintings by the artist. This is Yoshitoshi at his most whimsical and imaginative.

This title is now only available as a paper back with ISBN 9789004337374.
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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.
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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.