Kobayashi Kiyochika


Picture of the Naval Battle of Pungdo in Korea
(Chosen Hoto kaisen no zu)

signed Kiyochika with artist's seals Kiyo and Chika, dated within the publisher's cartouche, Meiji nijunananen, hachigatsu (Meiji 27 [1894], August), followed by information for publisher Inoue Kichijiro, 1894

oban tate-e triptych 14 3/4 by 30 1/8 in., 37.5 by 76.4 cm

The declaration of war with China in 1894 stimulated a burst of productivity in the woodblock print market, with the artist Kobayashi Kiyochika leading the charge. This print depicts the first outbreak of naval hostilities between Japan and China in July 1894 off the coast of Asan. On July 23rd, King Gojong of Korea was deposed by Japanese forces, and replaced by his father, in retaliation for violating an existing treaty with Japan by requesting military assistance from the Qing government to put down a peasant uprising. In anticipation of a response from the Chinese, the Japanese navy began patrolling the area to prevent additional troops movements. On July 25th, the Japanese encountered the Chinese gunboat Guangyi and cruiser Jiyuan on their way to escort the Kowshing, a chartered British steamer carrying Chinese soldiers and supplies. When the Chinese ships did not return a standard international maritime salute, the Japanese navy began firing on the ships. Kiyochika depicts the Guangyi consumed by flames in a fire that was set by her crew to prevent the Japanese from salvaging the wreck. The surviving sailors are seen in the foreground, rowing their way to the shore and watching, no doubt in horror, at the conflagration of their ship while the battle continues on the horizon and the Japanese give chase to the escaping Jiyuan. Known as the Battle of Pungdo due to its proximity to Pungdo Island (Japanese: Hoto) in the Bay of Asan, it was the first decisive naval battle of the First Sino-Japanese War, although it took place before war was officially declared on August 1st.

Nathan Chaikin, The Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), 1983, pp. 57-59 (re: Battle of Pungdo), p. 62, cat. no. 15, photo p. 126
Hideki Kikkawa, Kobayashi Kiyochika: Studies in Light and Shadow of the Westernization of Japan, Seigensha Art Publishing, 2015, p.145, no. 218
Rhiannon Paget, in Philip K. Hu, ed., et al., Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan, Saint Louis Art Museum, 2016, p. 109, no. 21, accession no. 120:2010a-c
Bradley M. Bailey, Flash of Light, Fog of War: Japanese Military Prints, 1894-1905, Ackland Art Museum, 2017, p. 42, no. 2, accession no.2015.11.12
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, accession no. 2000.410a-c
New York Public Library, no. 101974.a-c
(inv. no. C-3016)

price: $1,300


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site last updated
October 21, 2021

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