Comparison of New Ukiyo-e Beauties: February, Winter Sky
(Shin ukiyo-e bijin awase: Nigatsu, Samuzora)
light mica over printed grey ground; signed at right, Koka ga, the series title in the pink cartouche at the upper right corner, Shin ukiyo-e bijin awase, followed by the print title, Ni-gatsu, Samuzora, published in 1918
dai oban tate-e 17 1/8 by 11 3/8 in., 43.5 by 29 cm
The series title of this print, Shin ukiyo-e bijin awase, and the print title specifying one of the twelve months, links this composition to a collaborative series which had previously been dated to circa 1924 and credited as published by Murakami, however, recent scholarship identifes the publisher as the Publication Society of Shin Ukiyo-e Bijin Awase. The series represents a new mode of woodblock print production in which the artists act as their own publisher, perhaps with patron support, in this case pooling their resources as well as their designs. Eleven artists contributed the twelve designs corresponding to the twelve months. The prints were produced striving to replicate the painterly affects of completed paintings rather than the traditional hanmoto (publisher) method utilizing black outline sumi ink drawings created expressly for print designs and then used to carve keyblocks and pull proofs which were hand-colored and annotated for the producing color blocks. Some of the original paintings are known to have survived, seven of which are currently in the collection of Darrel C. Karl, and compare remarkably closely with the prints.
The use of mica in large areas such as the background was a technical obstacle that modern printers were just beginning to unravel around the same time this print was created. Although stylistically this design is quite different than the other contributions to the series and the larger title cartouches are placed within the composition instead of on the margin, an impression of this design is included in a set of twelve prints from the series found in the collection of the National Diet Library, Tokyo, which is dated to 1918. At least four artists who contributed to the set dated to 1918 also designed five additional prints which have been dated to circa 1924, representing April, May, July, August and November.
Kato Junzo, comp., Kindai Nihon hanga taikei, 1975-76, vol. I, pl. 148
Amy Reigle Newland, and Hamanaka Shinji, The Female Image: 20th Century Prints of Japanese Beauties, 2000, p. 90, no. 114
Andreas Marks, Seven Masters: 20th Century Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Wells Collection, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2015, p. 208 (regarding publication date)
(inv. no. C-3253)
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