Famous Places in Nikko, Snow, Moon & Fowers: Yomei Gate
(Nikko Meisho [Setsugekka]: Yomeimon)
signed at lower right Hiroaki with artist's seal Shotei, with publisher's seal at lower right, Hanken shoyu Fusui Gabo hakko, and limited edition seal, San-hyaku mai kagiri zeppan (limited edition of 300), ca. 1929
oban tate-e 15 1/2 by 10 1/4 in., 39.5 by 26.1 cm
The role of Takahashi Hiroaki (Shotei) in the shin-hanga movement is arguably as integral as it has been overlooked. He was one of the most prolific among the shin-hanga artists, with as many as 500 designs issued by his primary publisher Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962). Beginning in 1907, small-format 'tourist' prints designed by Shotei helped the ambitious young print dealer establish his nascent publishing house. By the mid-1910s, as Watanabe began to explore taking print production to a new level, he published a snow scene designed by Shotei, Snow on Ayase River (Ayasegawa no yuki), exhibiting some of the hallmarks of a Watanabe-produced shin-hanga print, including one of the earliest (or possibly the earliest) dated print bearing Watanabe's round seal. However, Watanabe passed over Shotei for additional collaborations in the higher-quality format, and sought out Western-trained artists (and failing that, Western artists themselves) to help him achieve his vision for a new genre of modern Japanese prints.
Although Watanabe did publish at least 43 oban-sized (or larger) Shotei prints, representing less than one tenth of their collaboration, it is not surprising that some of Shotei's best work came to fruition while working with another publisher that perhaps allowed him more artistic freedom. Between 1929 and 1932, Shotei produced thirty full-sized (oban or larger) woodblock prints with Fusui Gabo, a Tokyo-based publishing house established in the year following the 1923 earthquake by Kaneko Fusui (Seji) and Kanekio Seizo. Similar to Watanabe and most of the publishing houses, the firm also published ukiyo-e reproductions with the help of Shotei acting as an editor.
This print is from a series published by Fusui Gabo in 1929, Famous Places in Nikko (Nikko Meisho) which included three designs based on the classical theme of Snow, Moon, and Flowers (Setsugekka) and all three designs are quite scarce. The edition, limited to only 300 impressions, is an excellent example of the zenith of shin-hanga print production, both in character and composition. Though poised to share the market for high-quality modern woodblock print production, Fusui Gabo's contriubtion to the shin-hanga movement was short-lived. The publisher apparently did not issue prints with artists other than Shotei, and their headquarters (including their inventory of books and prints) was destroyed during World War II.
Hisao Shimizu, Syotei (Hiroaki) Takahashi, 2005, p. 66, no. 313
Hisao Shimizu, The Collected Print Works of Shotei Takahashi, A Modern Ukiyo-e Painter, 2006, p. 113, no. 110
Marc Kahn, Shotei.com, cat. no. O-63
(inv. no. C-3216)
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