Takahashi Hiroaki (Shotei), 1871-1945
Shono in Rain
(Shono no Ame)
with artist's red seal, Shotei, small lobed seal, shi (4) at lower right corner, and collector's seal W.J. VERBECK stamped on verso, published by Watanabe, ca. 1909-1923
otanzaku yoko-e 6 3/8 by 14 5/8 in., 16.2 by 37 cm
In 1906, Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962) left the employment of the print dealer and publisher, Kobayashi Bunshichi (1864-1923) in order to establish his own print shop, Shobido (lit. 'Hall of Reverence for Art'). The following year he hired the artist Takahshi Shotei to produce primarily small-format prints with the intention of marketing them to the burgeoning tourist trade and foreign market for ukiyo-e, reproductions, and decorative prints. Although the title of this print is not given, the subject is a clear reference to Utagawa Hiroshige's iconic White Rain at Shono from the ca. 1830 series, Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido. Presenting a familiar subject rewarded the savy ukiyo-e enthusiast for recognzing the allusion from the composition alone. In the period from 1907-1923 Shotei designed over five hundred prints for Watanabe, clearly the publisher understood his market. The success of Shotei's contributions ultimately helped position Watanabe to take print production to new artistic levels and in the direction of what would become known as shin hanga (new prints).
The small cartouche under the signature (no. 4) is of a type that is occaisonally found on pre-earthquake prints. Watanabe's mentor, Kobayashi Bunshichi, used a similar number seal on the small-format prints he published by Uehara Konen (1878-1940), a numbering system that reached well into the high hundreds. Although the number here suggests that this is the fourth design by Shotei published by Watanabe, numbered Shotei prints are rather scarce, preventing (thus far) a comprehensive sorting and explanation of the significance of the numbered cartouches.
Hisao Shimizu, Syotei (Hiroaki) Takahashi, 2005, p. 18, pl. 35
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