Hiroaki Shotei

Takahashi Hiroaki (Shotei), 1871-1945

Snow on Ayase River
(Ayasegawa no Yuki)

the title, Ayasegawa no yuki, followed by the date, Taisho yonen (Taisho 4 [1915]), and signed Shotei ga, with publisher's round circular seal at lower right corner, Watanabe

otanzaku yoko-e 6 3/4 by 14 7/8 in., 17.2 by 37.8 cm

In 1906 Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962) left his job at the Yokohama branch of the Kobayashi print shop in order to start his own ukiyo-e shop, Shobi-do (lit. 'Hall of Reverence for Art'). His experience undoubtedly made him well aware of the market for ukiyo-e (antique, new, and reproductions), particularly in the foreign market. Venturing into publishing the following year, the first artist he hired was Shotei, who would produce many prints, mostly in smaller formats (mitsugiri-ban, chuban, etc.), for Watanabe over the coming years.

In the period from 1907-1923 Shotei designed over five hundred woodblock prints for Watanabe. While a few of the earlier works (such as this one) have a large version of Watanabe's circular seal, most have no publisher seal. This may be because Watanabe marketed most of Shotei's depictions of nostalgic landscapes of 'old Japan' to the export and tourist market, while concentrating his efforts on developing a new, more modern type of Japanese printmaking through the work of other artists in his circle.

This print stands out as an exception to that rule. The noticeably thick paper is of the same type Watanabe used for prints by artists such as Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) and Ito Shinsui (1898-1972), and the large seal seems to be an indication from Watanabe that this work is a part of (or at least working towards) the new genre of shin-hanga which he was in the process of establishing.

References:
Reigle Newland, Amy, gen. ed., Printed to Perfection: Twentieth-century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection,, 2004, p. 4
Ukiyo-e Modern, Machida Shiritsu Kokusai Hanga Bijyutsukan, 2005, p. 42, no. 12
Abe, Setsuko, The Publisher Watanabe Shozaburo and the Shin-hanga Movement: Its Beginnings until the 1930s, in The Hotei Encyclopedia of Woodblock Prints, 2005, p. 295, pl. 228
Shimizu Hisao, Syotei (Hiroaki) Takahashi, 2005, p.24, pl. 87

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