highlights international perspective

Elizabeth Keith, (Scottish, 1887-1956)

Night Scene Peking

Color woodblock print. The title within the composition at lower left, Night scene, Peking. Signed in red crayon at lower right, Elizabeth Keith, followed by artist's date seal EK 1922. Published by Watanabe Shôzaburô in 1922.

38.3 by 26.3 cm

Keith, Eastern Windows, 1928, color plate facing page 56
Miles, Elizabeth Keith: The Printed Works, 1991, p.27. pl. 6
Meech, Japonisme: Graphic Arts in the 20th Century, in The New Wave, 1993, pp. 47-48, and p. 215, pl. 300
Merritt, Points of Contrast, 1993, pp. 40-45
Yokohama Museum of Art, Eyes Towards Asia: Ukiyo-e Artists from Abroad, 1996, pp. 218-226 and p. 243

Elizabeth Keith was born in Scotland, but raised in Ireland and London. Keith had natural artistic talents but no formal art training. In 1915 she traveled to Japan to visit her sister Jessie, who had married J. W. Robertson Scott, the publisher of The New East (Shin Toyo), a monthly bilingual magazine. The trip was supposed to last a few months, but Keith was so taken by Japan she ended up staying nearly nine years. She traveled extensively using Tokyo as her home base, and became particularly fond of Korea, which she visited with Jessie for the first time in 1919. Upon their return to Tokyo, she exhibited watercolors from the trip at Mitsukoshi department store, where she encountered the publisher Watanabe Shôzaburô. Although they had not previously met, Keith would have been well aware of Watanabe, not only by reputation, but also because he had published the prints of her good friend, Charles W. Bartlett (cat. nos. 13-16). Watanabe selected a painting, and suggested that she allow him to develop it into a print.

Between 1919 and 1936, Watanabe published over sixty Keith woodblock prints. She delighted in the print process, and would sit alongside Watanabe's printers to learn from them and to ensure that the final result successfully achieved her intentions. In 1928 Keith published a book, Eastern Windows, in which she described her experiences in Japan, Hokkaido, Korea, China, and the Philippines. Writing about her time in Watanabe's studio: "...even when I oppose his deep sense of tradition he is always my conscientious critic and counselor. When we have a tussle, he invariably gives way. His most crushing comment is then, 'It will be popular with foreign tourist, I think'" (Keith, p. 12).


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site last updated
September 22, 2020

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
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