Twelve Views of Tokyo: Asakusa
(Tokyo Junikei: Asakusa)
signed Hakutei hitsu followed by red double-gourd carver's seal, Bonkotsu to (Bonkotsu Igami), published by Yanagiya-shoten, Seikado, ca. 1914-17
oban tate-e 15 1/4 by 10 3/8 in., 38.8 by 26.2 cm
This series is arguably the earliest single sheet shin hanga series devoted to depicting beautiful women. In each composition, the beauty is depicted on a near empty ground, paired with a landscape cartouche typical of classic ukiyo-e. The bright red rectangular title cartouche is another quintessential ukiyo-e convention. While the geisha wear traditional kimono, the landscapes illustrate scenes of modern Tokyo. The young beauty is adjusting the braided cords on kotsuzumi drums and the inset panel on this print illustrates the Buddhist temple Kinryuzan located in the Asakusa district of Tokyo.
The series captures a key transitional moment for the woodblock print genre. The theme is classic: views of beautiful women presented within parameters as compared to views of famous places. The design is classic: a beauty on a plain ground, and even the proportions of the landscape cartouche above are similar to ukiyo-e; but the moment is contemporary. In the nostalgic subject matter one sees the direction of shin-hanga (new prints) to come.
Although the artist Hakutei would become a leading artist in the sosaku hanga (creative print) movement which usually emphasized the artist as the creator who would self-carve and self-print the blocks, this series was produced in the traditional manner with the contributions of professional artistans under the direction of a publisher. The master carver, Bonkotsu Igami (1875-1933), was himself become a prominent figure and mentor, ecouraging artists to learn the art of woodblock carving lest the uniquely Japanese techniques be lost in the storm of modernization.
Kato Junzo, comp., Kindai Nihon hanga taikei, 1975-76, Vol. 1, no. 21
Lawrence Smith, Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989, 1994, pp. 37-38, no. 5
Amy Reigle Newland, and Hamanaka Shinji, The Female Image: 20th Century Prints of Japanese Beauties, 2000, p. 37, no. 8
(inv. no. C-3255)
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site last updated
October 21, 2021
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
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