Kobayashi Kiyochika Night View of Towboats at Koume in Tokyo

Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1847-1915

Night View of Towboats at Koume in Tokyo
(Tokyo koume hikifune yazu)

the title centered in the top margin, signed in the cartouche at lower left Hoensha Kobayashi Kiyochika ga followed by his address, Wakamiya-cho nihyaku jusan banchi, the publisher's name and address on the left margin, Yoshikawa-cho nibanchi (Wakamiya Town 213, Yoshikawa Town 2), Matsuki Heikichi ban (Matsuki Heikichi IV, 1836-1891), ca. 1876

oban yoko-e 9 5/8 by 14 3/8 in., 24.5 by 36.5 cm

A dramatic nocturne illustrating two figures pulling ropes attached to towboats beyond the frame of the composition on the Yotsugi-dori canal. The canal cuts across the dark foreground and bends into the distance at the left edge of the composition where low-lying roofs of a cluster buildings are visible against the tree line and a single light glows pink. In the background, the pale moon rises, and a scattering of yellow stars twinkle high in the sky. The moon casts a white glow on the faces of the figures and around the outlines of the folds of their clothing in an eerie manner. The haunting image demonstrates his unusual approach in manipulating lighting and shadows to great effect. This print was one of the first four issued in the first month of production which initially had English titles along the bottom margin. Slightly impressions eliminate the date and English title, and some change the color of the signature cartouche from striking red to a more subtle blue or grey.

References:
Tokichi Sakai, Kiyochika, The Japan Association for the Preservation of Ukiyo-e, translation by N.S. Gankow, 1969, no. 4
Kiyochika, Goyo, Shinsui hanga ten: Meiji, Taisho no ukiyo-e shi, Seibu Hyakkaten, 1976, no. 1
Henry D. Smith II, Kiyo-Chika: Artist of Meiji Japan, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 25, no. 12
Hideki Kikkawa, Kobayashi Kiyochika: Studies in Light and Shadow of the Westernization of Japan, Seigensha Art Publishing, 2015, p. 37, no. 45
Kobayashi Kiyochika: A Retrospective, Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, 2016, p.29, no. 24

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