Whirlpool, vol. 2
kuchi-e (woodblock printed frontispiece) for the novel Whirlpool (Uzumaki), embellished with gofun on the lace of the pinafore and the hair highlighted with shomenzuri; signed Kiyokata with artist's seal Kiyokata, published by Ryubunkan, 1913
12 5/8 by 8 5/8 in., 32.2 by 22 cm
Kiyokata, born Kaburaki Ken'ichi, was the son of Jono Saigiku, a writer and founder of the newspaper Yamato Shimbun. In 1891 his father arranged for Ken'ichi to study with Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908), a painter and contributor to the newspaper. Toshikata was a student of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), one of the last great masters of ukiyo-e. In 1893 Ken'ichi was given the go (art name) Kiyokata. From the mid-1890s, Kiyokata pursued a career as an illustrator. Starting with newspaper work, he eventually became a prolific designer of kuchi-e (novel frontispieces) and sashi-e (inserted illustrations). His illustrating commissions kept him busy, but by 1907 he resolved he would quit by the time he turned 40 in order to focus on paintings. In 1901 he helped establish the art group Ugokai, dedicated to reviving the popularity of the bijinga genre. From 1902 on he focused his energies on painting and began submitting his work to the government-sponsored Bunten exhibitions that began in that year, finally gaining acceptence to the 3rd exhibition in 1909, winning an award, and he won first prize at the 9th Bunten in 1915.
This frontispiece was included in the second volume of the novel Whirlpool (Uzumaki) by Watanabe Katei (Masaru Watanabe, 1884-1926) which was first serialized is the Osaka Asahi Shimbun in 1913, and then published in three volumes in 1913-1914 with a supplement volume by Ryubunkan in Tokyo. It tells the story of Kazue, a young mother struggling with a husband who has squandered her inherited fortune. It was later the subject of two movies.
Helen Merritt, and Nanako Yamada, Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints: Reflections of Meiji Culture, 2000, p. 96; pp. 198-201 (artist's biography)
Nanako Yamada, Mokuhan Kuchi-e (Survey of Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints), 2006, p. 272
(inv. no. C-3258)
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