Creative Prints, Collected Portraits of Shunsen: Actor Nakamura Utaemon V as Yodogimi
(Sosaku hanga Shunsen Nigao-e Shu: Nakamura Utaemon V, Yodogimi)
printed with katazuri (embossing) along the nose and brow; signed Shunsen with artist's seal Shunsen and artist's approval seal, Natori, on lower left, publisher's seal Watanabe-ko (Watanabe Shozaburo) at middle right edge, from an edition limited to 150 impressions, ca. 1926
oban tate-e 10 3/4 by 15 1/2 in., 27.31 by 39.37 cm
Following his participation in 1915 with the short-lived magazine Shin nigao-e (New Portraits of Actors) also known as Yakusha-e (Portraits of Actors), Shunsen submitted a portrait of the actor Nakamura Ganjiro I (1860-1935) to a painting exhibition the following year where it was seen by the publisher Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962) who offered to use it as the basis for a woodblock print. The print was published in the same year, followed by one more actor print in 1917. Their collaboration did not resume until eight years later when Watanabe began publishing a series of thirty-six actor prints, Creative Prints, Collected Portraits by Shunsen (Sosaku hanga, Shunsen nigao-e shu), a series of thirty-six actor prints issued by subscription only in editions limited to 150 impressions from 1925-1928.
Similar to Yamamura Koka (Toyonari, 1885-1942) who had also published actor prints with Watanabe and independently before the earthquake, Shunsen developed his portraits based on bromides (buromaido), photographs of the actors which were available for fans to purchase at the theaters, emphasizing a new modern realism which likely appealed to the kabuki audience. The new series established Shunsen as Watanabe's primarily artist for kabuki prints.
Nakamura Utaemon V (1865-1940) was one of the leading onnagata (female role) actors of the early 20th century. He was best known for his portrayal of the role Yodogimi (Lady Yodo) in several shin-kabuki (new plays outside of the kabuki tradition) plays written for him, the first was staged in 1906, and the last was in 1939 for his final stage performance. This print may depict his portrayal of Yodogimi in the play Yodogimi Odawara Jin (Yodogimi, Battle of Odawara), which premiered in April 1926.
Accompanied by original folder with the title label, Dai jusan (13th), Nakamura Utaemon, Yodogimi, and embossed at lower right, Shunsen hanga kankokai (Shunsen publishing association).
Yamaguchi Keizoro, Natori Shunsen (exhibition catalogue), Kushigata, 1991, no. 26
Chiba City Art Museum, Nihon no hanga III 1921-1930, 2001, p. 42, pl. 13
Lucie Folan et. al., Stars of the Tokyo Stage: Natori Shunsen's Kabuki Actor Prints, National Gallery of Australia, 2012, p. 85
Carolyn M. Putney, et. al., Fresh Impressions: Early Modern Japanese Prints, Toledo Museum of Art, 2013, p. 188, cat. no. 147
Andreas Marks, Seven Masters: 20th Century Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Wells Collection, Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2015, pp. 81-87; p. 91, cat. no. 39
(inv. no. 10-4027)
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