Snow on Ayase River
(Ayasegawa no Yuki)
the title, Ayasegawa no yuki, followed by the date, Taisho yonen (Taisho 4 ), and signed Shotei ga, with publisher's round circular seal, Watanabe, at lower right corner
tanzaku yoko-e 6 3/4 by 14 7/8 in., 17.2 by 37.8 cm
In 1906 Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962) left his job at the Yokohama branch of the Kobayashi print shop in order to start his own ukiyo-e shop, Shobi-do (lit. Hall of Reverence for Art). His experience undoubtedly made him well aware of the market for ukiyo-e (antique, new, and reproductions), particularly in the foreign market. Venturing into publishing the following year, the first artist he hired was Shotei, who would produce many shinsaku hanga (new made, not reproduction prints), mostly in smaller formats (mitsugiri-ban, chuban, etc.), for Watanabe over the coming years.
In the period from 1907-1923 Shotei designed over five hundred woodblock prints for Watanabe. While a few of the earlier works (such as this one) have a large version of Watanabe's circular seal, most have no publisher seal. This may be because Watanabe marketed most of Shotei's depictions of nostalgic landscapes of 'old Japan' to the export and tourist market, while concentrating his efforts on developing a new, more modern type of printmaking through the work of other artists in his circle.
This print stands out as an exception to that rule. The date of 1915 places the production in the same year that Watanabe began to collaborate on a new type of woodblock print with the Austrian artist Fritz Capelari (1884-1950) and the Japanese artist Hashiguchi Goyo (1880-1921). The noticeably thick paper printed with an emphasis on the textures created with the baren is similar to the new experimental prints, and the large seal seems to be an indication from Watanabe that this work is a part of (or at least working towards) the new genre of shin-hanga which he was in the process of establishing.
Amy Reigle Newland, gen. ed., Printed to Perfection: Twentieth-Century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection, 2004, p. 4
Ukiyo-e Modern, Machida Shiritsu Kokusai Hanga Bijyutsukan, 2005, p. 42, no. 12
Setsuko Abe, The Publisher Watanabe Shozaburo and the Shin-hanga Movement: Its Beginnings Until the 1930s, in The Hotei Encyclopedia of Woodblock Prints, 2005, p. 295, pl. 228
Hisao Shimizu, Syotei (Hiroaki) Takahashi, 2005, p.24, pl. 87
Koyama Shuko, Beautiful Shin-Hanga: Revitalization of Ukiyo-e, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, 2009, p. 21, no. 1-27
Shimizu Hisao, The Publisher Watanabe Shozaburo and the Birth of Shin-Hanga, in Kendall Brown, Water and Shadow: Kawase Hasui and Japanese Landscape Prints, 2014, pp. 23-24, no. 11.4
(inv. no. C-3213)
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site last updated
September 20, 2021
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
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