Twenty Views of Tokyo: Shiba Zojo Temple
(Tokyo Nijukkei: Shiba Zojoji)
signed Hasui with artist's seal Kawase, with the rarely present series title cartouche on left margin, Tokyo Nijukei, followed by the print title, Shiba Zojoji, and the date below, Taisho juyonen saku (Taisho 14 ), and the publisher's (Hotei 'C') seal on lower right margin, Hanmoto Watanabe hangaten (Publisher Watanabe print shop), 1925
oban tate-e 15 1/8 by 10 1/4 in., 38.5 by 26.1 cm
In recent years this print has vaulted from Hasui's most popular print, to the most famous shin-hanga landscape, and most recently, possibly one of the most recognizable Japanese woodblock prints of all, achieving its status as an icon of the genre in just under a century. This steady climb to fame began at its inception, it was a great success when Watanabe released it as the first print in the Twenty Views of Tokyo series which was published between 1925 and 1930.
As is the case with most Hasui prints published by Watanabe, the popularity of any given design is evident in the progression of different publisher seals found on various impressions. In this case, it is estimated that Watanabe began using the publisher's copyright seal found in the lower right corner starting in approximately 1927. However, this seal has also been found on prints together with an earlier copyright seal (6mm round seal) which is thought to have been in use up until 1926, underscoring that the copyright seals were employed somewhat randomly and cannot be relied upon solely to date an impression of a Hasui print.
From a perspective of connoisseurship, a comparison of examples found in reference works (and often the cover illustrations) reveals remarkably few differences in impressions, a testament to the extraordinary skill of the carvers and printers working with Watanabe. The color of the figure's scarf ranges from purple to blueberry, and the color of the figure's inner sleeve and hem range from rosy-pink (on earlier impressions) to a red hue matching the temple. In addition, it seems the earlier impressions tend to use the brick red on the temple and to emphasize the contrast of the shadows in the background, as is found on this example, while later impressions seem to soften the shadows and use a brighter red.
For this series Watanabe opted to have the series title cartouche, Tokyo Nijukkei, stamped on the print rather than carved into the keyblock, and that seal is often missing. Curiously, most impressions of this print (and other prints from this series) were issued without the series title cartouche (even the impressions in the Narazaki Muneshige book and the 2003 catalogue raisonné by Kendall Brown are missing the series title). While it is generally believed that the presence of the series cartouche indicates an early impression, Shimizu suggests that the prints were not initially produced as an intended series, but then Watanabe later decided group them as such, hence the stamped series title. (Hisao Shimizu, Kawase Hasui, 2013)
According to Narazaki, due to the immediate success of the design, additional batches were ordered, including a final run in 1933, but thereafter Watanabe decided to stop producing it even though the blocks were available and they could have sold many, many more.
Kato Junzo, comp., Kindai Nihon hanga taikei, 1975-76, Vol. III, pl. 14
Narazaki Muneshige, Kawase Hasui mokuhanga shu, 1979, p. 56, no. 147
Kendall H. Brown, Kawase Hasui: The Complete Woodblock Prints, 2003, p. 356, no. 147
Kendall H. Brown, Visions of Japan: Kawase Hasui's Masterpieces, 2004, p. 55, no. 19 (and cover)
Shimada City Museum, Kawase Hasui, The Landscape Woodblock Prints of the Taisho and Showa Periods, 2005, p. 60, no. 91
Hsiao Shimizu, Hasui Kawase, Folk Museum of Ota City, 2007, p. 31, no. 17
Abe Publishing, Kawase Hasui Woodblock Prints, 2009, p. 68, no. 94 (and cover)
Carolyn M. Putney, et. al., Fresh Impressions: Early Modern Japanese Prints, Toledo Museum of Art, 2013, p. 141, cat. no. 85
Chiba City Museum of Art, Kawase Hasui, 2013, p. 87, no. 81 (and cover)
Hisao Shimizu, Kawase Hasui, Folk Museum of Ota City, 2013, pp 58-59, no. 56 (purple scarf) and no. 57 (blue scarf with more contrast)
(inv. no. C-3248)
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