Inoue Yasuji (Tankei), 1864-1889
Self-made Men Worthy of Emulation: no. 4, Dainagon Yukinari
(Kyodo Risshi no Moto: Dainagan Yukinari)
with shomenzuri (burnished) pattern on the figure's black robe and karazuri (embossing) on the white brocade trailing behind him, the series title, Kyodo Risshi no Moto, in a banner above the composition framed by a decorative brocade border, signed Inoue Tankei with artist's seal, with carver's seal on lower left margin, Miyamoto hori-shi, the stylized cartouche on the bottom margin with the design number, 4, the publication date to the right, on todoke Meiji jukyunen (registered Meiji 19 ) and to the left, Gako ken shuppan Ryogoku Yoshikawacho 2-banchi Matsuki Heikichi ban, published by Matsuki Heikichi of Daikokuya, 1886
oban tate-e 14 3/8 by 9 3/8 in., 36.5 by 23.7 cm
Inoue Yasuji, the son of a dry-goods merchant in Asakusa, began his artistic training with the master ukiyo-e artist, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892). Yasuji left Yoshitoshi's tutelage after having encountered Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) sketching a landscape of the Sumida River during the winter of 1878-79. After having observed Kiyochika in silence for a few hours, Yasuji approached the artist and asked him to take him on as a student. Although Kiyochika gave up his Western-style landscapes by 1881 and had begun a new focus cartoons for satirical publications, Yasuji continued the theme and over three years designed over 134 post-card size prints in the style of his master. The relationship between master and student was close; by February of 1882, Kiyochika, whose second marriage was failing, had moved to Asakusa Namiki-cho, the same area as Yasuji's home (possibly living with his student), before moving again the following year, and marrying for the third and final time in 1883.
By 1884, Yasuji moved on from the Kiyochika landscape style and returned to his ukiyo-e training producing triptych on heroic themes for the publisher Matsuki Heikichi IV (Matsuji Toko, 1836-1891), who gave Yasuji the art name Tankei. In 1885, Matsuki began issuing a collaborative series featuring heroic men and women from history and modern times who demonstrate admirable qualities, with Kiyochika contributing 20 designs, and Yasuji providing 13. This print illustrates Fujiwara no Sanekata (d. 998-999), the Middle Captain of the Inner Palace Guards at the Imperial Court, glaring at the seated Dainagon Yukinari (the hero of this tale) clasping his head, whose cap Sanekata has just knocked off in retaliation for the perceived insult of being mocked. The Emperor Ichijo (980-1011) punished Sankekata by demoting him and banishing him to a northern province.
In 1889 Yasuji died at the young age of only 25 years old, a devastating loss for Kiyochika of a loyal disciple and friend.
Henry D. Smith II, Kiyo-chika: Artist of Meiji Japan, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, pp. 9-10, 14
The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints (myjapanesehanga.com)
Edo Tokyo Museum, accession no. 96200365
(inv. no. 10-3264x)
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