Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1847-1915
Sunset at Yanagishima
signed within the composition at lower left, Kobayashi Kiyochika, published by Matsuki Heikichi IV (1836-1891), ca. 1877-78
oban yoko-e yoko-e 10 by 14 5/8 in., 25.4 by 37 cm
The underside of the line of clouds in the sky are shaded with a distinctive net pattern which Henry Smith discusses pertaining to a famous large-format print by Kiyochika, Cat and Lantern, published by Matsuki in a tiny edition of only a few impressions (although there were subsequent later very small editions) and submitted the First Domestic Industrial Exposition in 1877. The charming composition of a cat cornering a rat inside an overturned and still lit lantern was produced utilizing an ambitious adaptation of Western shading techniques which was intended to demonstrate that Japanese woodblock printing can achieve all of the same visual effects as copperplate and end-grain wood engravings. In 1918, the leading lithographer (and sometimes woodblock print artist) Oda Kazuma (1881-1956) theorized that Kiyochika's use of the net pattern was also in response to its use in color lithography which was increasingly available by that time in Japan.
Although this print bears no publishing information, earlier impressions of this design locate the artist's signature, print title and publisher on the bottom margin. As the series continued in production there was a tendency to simiplify, relocate, or remove superfluous text. As is almost always the case with woodblock printing, each new batch of prints provided an opportunity to tinker with the composition by adjusting the coloration. While earlier impressions with the text along the bottom margin tend to have a paler sky with darker coloration of the foreground which emphasizes the contrast overall, later impressions, such as this one, are notable for the deftly-printed saturated palette blending hues of yellow, peach and pink.
Tokichi Sakai, Kiyochika, The Japan Association for the Preservation of Ukiyo-e, translation by N.S. Gankow, 1969, no. 8
Henry D. Smith II, Kiyo-Chika: Artist of Meiji Japan, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 32, no. 19
Exhibition of Kobayashi Kiyochika, Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, 1998, p. 29, no. 16
Hideki Kikkawa, Kobayashi Kiyochika: Studies in Light and Shadow of the Westernization of Japan, Seigensha Art Publishing, 2015, p. 59, no. 76
Kobayashi Kiyochika: A Retrospective, Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, 2016, p. 35, no. 33
(inv. no. 10-4820)
Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only
Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit between 11am and 4pm preferably for no more than two individuals at a time.
Visitors are asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing at their discretion.
site last updated
October 14, 2021
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475
Join our mailing list...