signed and dated at left, Taisho yo, ju (Taisho 4 , 10th [month]), Goyo ga, with artist's seal shisaku ('trial work'), and publisher's seal Watanabe Sho, published ca. February 1916
dai oban tate-e 16 1/8 by 10 3/4 in., 41 by 27.2 cm
Hashiguchi Goyo studied the Kano school style of painting as a child before he became a pupil of the Nihonga (Japanese style) painter Hashimoto Gaho (1835-1908) in 1899, and then the yoga (Western style) painter Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924) only two years later in 1901. In 1905 he was one of the top graduates in the yoga department at the Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko (Tokyo School of Fine Arts). He was a very prolific illustrator of magazines, novels, and posters while he continued to exhibit his paintings.
This is the only print which Goyo produced with the publisher Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962). In 1915, Watanabe began production on a group of prints with the Austrian artist Fritz Capelari (1884-1950) who was visiting Japan on a trip extended by the outbreak of war in Europe. Up until he discovered Capelari (or more accurately, Capelari discovered him), Watanabe had been trying to find a Japanese artist trained in Western painting techniques who would be interested in collaborating on developing a new color woodblock printmaking style. Watanabe approached several leading yoga painters, including one of Goyo's teachers, the modern painter Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924), who declined. Presumably for modern artists of the time, the 'floating world' was too closely associated with decorative, popular, or worse, commercial and tourist art. However, the prints Watanabe produced with Capelari signaled his intentions for a new type of print, rooted in the traditions of ukyio-e but with distinctive modern influences and a finer production quality.
The Capelari prints helped convinced Goyo to work with Watanabe on this design of a woman bathing. It displays all the hallmarks of a Watanabe-published print: a traditional Japanese subject rendered in a modern style, with thick paper and stylized touches such as the exploitation of the textures and pigments created by the baren swirls and goma-zuri ('sesame seed printing').
Apparently Goyo, an avid collector and scholar of classic ukiyo-e himself, was not satisfied with Watanabe's take on this 'new' ukiyo-e. The artist seal alone, shisaku ('trial work') suggests his hesitation with the Watanabe style. Being trained with Western concepts of individual creativity may also have affected his relationship with Watanabe as a traditional publisher, who would have been ultimately in control of the print production. This is the only print Goyo produced in the traditional hanmoto (publisher) process. The first edition of one hundred impressions was split evenly by artist and publisher; and reportedly, Goyo was so dissatisfied he destroyed his fifty copies. . It is not known if Watanabe ever managed to print any additional impressions before the blocks were destroyed in the fire following the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923.
Goyo went on to establish his own printing studio and published thirteen more prints privately in his lifetime. His family completed production on ten additional designs posthumously which were in various stages of production at the time of his sudden passing in 1921. The model for this print, named Tomi, was a favorite of Goyo's. He used her frequently for his later prints, most famously for his iconic composition, Woman Combing her Hair, in 1920.
Kato, Junzo, comp., Kindai Nihon hanga taikei, 1975-76, Vol. I, pl. 94
Newland, Amy & Uhlenbeck, Chris, eds., Ukiyo-e to Shin-hanga: The Art of Japanese Woodblock Prints, The Mallard Press, 1990, p. 216
Reigle Neland, Amy, and Hamanaka Shinji, The Female Image: 20th century prints of Japanese beauties, Hotei Publishing, 2000, p. 39, pl. 12
Reigle Newland, Amy, gen. ed., Printed to Perfection: Twentieth-century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 2004, p. 60, no. 36
Ukiyo-e Modern, Machida Shiritsu Kokusai Hanga Bijyutsukan, 2005, p. 20, no. 39
Koyama Shuko, Beautiful Shin Hanga- Revitalization of Ukiyo-e, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, 2009, p 28, pl. 1-34
This print is on loan for this exhibition and not available for purchase.
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