Comparison of New Ukiyo-e Beauties: May, Fine Weather During the Rainy Season
(Shin ukiyo-e bijin awase: Gogatsu, satsuki bare)
signed Josen, with artist's red square seal unread, the series and print titles in the cartouches on the upper right margin, Shin ukiyo-e bijin awase, Gogatsu, satsuki bare, followed by the artist's name, Hamada Josen gahaku hitsu, published by the Publication Society of Shin Ukiyo-e Bijin Awase, ca. 1924
dai oban tate-e 16 by 11 3/8 in., 40.5 by 28.9 cm
There is a complete set of twelve designs from this collaborative series in the collection of the National Diet Library, Tokyo, which is dated to 1918. However, in that set there is a different design for the month of May by the female artist Nakayama Shuko (b. 1876). In addition to May, there are four other duplicate months identified thus far for this series (April, May, July, August and November) designed by five of the same artists who contributed to the 1918 set. This could suggest that this design, along with the other duplicate compositions, may be from a later grouping, possibly dating to 1924, the date which is usually assigned to this series. A slip of paper attached to an impression of another print from the 1918 group, (May, Early Summer Rain, also by Shuko), credits the Publication Society of Shin Ukiyo-e Bijin Awase, which may have been run by a Mr. Murakami.
The series represents a new mode of woodblock print production in which the artists act as their own publisher, perhaps with patron support, in this case pooling their resources as well as their designs. Eleven artists contributed the twelve designs corresponding to the twelve months. The prints were produced striving to replicate the painterly affects of completed paintings rather than the traditional hanmoto (publisher) method utilizing black outline sumi ink drawings created expressly for print designs and then used to carve keyblocks and pull proofs which were hand-colored and annotated for the producing color blocks. Some of the original paintings are known to have survived, seven of which, including the painting related to this print, are currently in the collection of Darrel C. Karl, and compare remarkably closely with the prints.
While some of the prints from the series are more scarce than others, perhaps a reflection of their popularity at the time of production relative to each other, the five extant designs included in second (hypothetically circa 1924) group are generally more scarce than the twelve prints dated to 1918, which in theory should have been more vulnerable to the destruction of the Great Kanto earthquake in September 1923.
Andreas Marks, Seven Masters: 20th Century Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Wells Collection, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2015, p. 208 (regarding publication date)
(inv. no. C-3201)
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