Kitano Tsunetomi, 1880-1947
Four Seasons of the Licensed Quarters
(Kuruwa no shunju)
offered as a complete set of four prints
the complete set of four prints together with original hand-numbered folder decorated with thistle; the series title on the front, Kuruwa no shunju (Seasons of the Pleasure Quarters), and signed Kitano Tsunetomi hitsu at right, and the edition information in red at left, Kanko gohyaku kagiri, dai hyakujukyu go (edition limited to 500, number 119), and publisher below Seikado ban, with seal; dated with further publishing information from Nakajima Jutaro (Nakajima Seikado, Tokyo) on the back: Taisho nana nen roku gatsu juni nichi insatsu (printed 7th year of Taisho , June 12), Taisho nana nen roku gatsu juugo nichi hakko (published 7th year of Taisho  June 15), Hissha (painter) Kitano Tsunetomi, Hakkosha (publisher) Nakajima Jutaro, Insatsusha (printer) Tadokoro Rikimatsu, Hakkojo (publication company), Nakajima Seikado
When this publisher, Nakajima Jutaro of Seikado, issued the Twelve Views of Tokyo (Tokyo Junikei) set by Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958) between 1914 and 1917, he explained on the series title page that the designs were based on paintings and compares them to ukiyo-e by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865). During the Meiji Period (1868-1912), it was increasingly the norm for prints to be based on paintings rather than derived from a hanashita-e (preparatory drawing) provided by the artist. Nakajima seemed to be making the point that although originating in the format of a painting, the works were conceived of as a print designs (implying that the works are therefore somehow more authentic as ukyio-e).
Nakajima draws a similar distinction with this set by Tsunetomi, issued the year after he completed the Hakutei set. On the back of the folder there is an explanation (translated below) which very nearly defines the intention of shin-hanga:
The highlight of nishiki-e was reached by those great masters like Sharaku, Kaigetsudo, Harubonu, Utamaro and Kunisada. Today those masterpieces are appreciated as antique while people also enjoyed the reproduction of these prints. We are not satisfied with yearning for the past alone; we would like to develop nishiki-e making. Tsunetomi, who observes the contemporary genre scene, has contributed to create this series, Kuruwa no Shunju. This set is meant to convey to the future traditional prints of beauties in the Oksaka pleasure quarters. Tsunetomi's nishiki-e well-illustrate women's charms; you can be mesmerized by looking at his prints. Tsunetomi is so skillful in carving: he even gives final approval after the carver completed the wood block. You will appreciate fine and delicate line in these prints. We have created the limited edition of 500 (to avoid using worn blocks). We publish this for our pleasure (not for profit).
Ironically, his publishing company, Seikado, would eventually be renamed the Sosaku Hanga Club.
Although no. 4, Shinmachi in Winter, Before the Mirror has become iconic (gracing the cover of the Sackler Gallery's publication of the Muller Collection, Printed to Perfection in 2004), prints from this set are quite scarce. When the Muller Collection was first published in The New Wave in 1993, the cataloging noted only two designs from the series were known (presumably the other was no. 2, Shinmachi in Spring,During a Lesson, which was illustrated alongside Before the Mirror in Kato Juno's Kindai Nihon hanga taikei in 1975-76.
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site last updated
May 20, 2022
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475
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