Taki Shuho

active ca. 1930s

Album of Contemporary Beauties: By Candle Light
(Kindai Reijin Gafu: Shoku-e)

lavishly printed with mica ground and metallic bands radiating from the flame of the candle; signed Shuho with artist's seal (possibly) Jindo, with publisher's information on the left-hand margin, Nichigetsu Shoin zo han (publisher Nichigetsu Shoin) hori Morien (carver Moriei) suri Nakai (printer Nakai), ca. 1936

dai oban tate-e 16 5/8 by 11 3/4 in., 42.2 by 30 cm

This print is from a set of four woodblock prints published by Nichigetsu Shoin of Osaka in 1936. The original set was issued in a cloth covered box with each print tipped in along the top edge to a rigid cloth-covered board with the front protected by a sheet of semi-translucent washi paper which was attached along the right-hand edge. The publisher also produced a large string-bound pamphlet (printed on thick hosho paper) in English (and Japanese on the back cover and colophon) which included a short article on Shuho's life and influences written by the artist Ishimoto Gyoko. According to Gyoko, Shuho was from the Shimane Prefecture, and ran away at the age of 13 in order to ask to become a student of Kaburagi Kiyokata (sleeping on Kiyokata's doorstep the first night). Although initially his parents refused and took him home, eventually he was able to join first the Kawabata School of Painting at Kasugacho, Koishikawa, and later the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. At the age of 21 he was forced to end his studies (due to family troubles), but was fortunate to find support and a place to live in residence of the Marquis Nakahiro Ikeda (1877-1948), a patron of the arts who was the 14th head of the Ikeda clan and associated with Emperor Taisho. Shuho worked at a newspaper in Tokyo, and then quit in order to go to Korea to travel and paint. When he returned to Japan he settled first in Kyoto, and then in Osaka.

In a second section on the same page, apparently written by the publisher, there is an explanation of the purpose of the series, which could be read as a description of shin hanga (particularly bijinga) itself: "To portray thus, modern Miss Nippon with the brush of a Tokugawa artist is impossible, and could only be insincere. Fresh handling and treatment are her due, and yet not forgetting that hers is the heritage- whether she knows it or not- of her charming predecessors of a romantic feudal age. And Shuho Taki has succeeded most admirably in penetrating the essential spirit of the present age and yet retaining the distinctive afterglow of the past."

Following the introduction each print was presented on its own page and illustrated with a small black and white tipped in lithograph with text by Shuho describing his inspiration for the subject. For this print Shuho focuses his comments on the bride's hairstyle: "I prefer the old fashioned wedding ceremony with its six-fold golden screen and the candlelight flickering on the stands of lacquer. The thoughts and hidden sentiments of the bride are difficult to discern and to portray. I have contented myself therefore to depicting a woman of classical Japanese features in her traditional nuptial garments. I am afraid that this is merely a genre picture. Her hair is done in the shimada-mage, the style of a young women since Yedo days and the prescribed hair dressing for a wedding. Tradition has it that it was first affected by courtesans of Shimada town on the Tokaido, or that it was originated by the actor, Shimada Mango. But its origin may be older; clay images found in ancient tombs are show with a similar hair dressing. Today the taka-shimada or high shimada is prescribed for brides, the tsubushi-shimada or low shimada for geisha and downtown city folk. In feudal days the high shimada was used by ladies-in-waiting at the Shogunal court, and the low shimada for towns-folk. -SHUHO TAKI"

Two versions of this rare design have been discovered: one with bronze metallic (brass powder) printing radiating from the flame of the candle and silver mica background (as is the case of the impression in the collection of LACMA); and this version, with bronze metallic backround throughout. As both versions have been located accompanied by the protective folders which hitherto had suggested they were produced with the original (and only edition), it is at this time unknown which may be the earlier version. One possible clue is that the black and white photo in the string-bound pamphlet appears to replicate the darker background of the gold-bronze metallic variant. However, one could theorize that the pamphlet may have been assembled based on photographs of test prints or proofs. The publisher and artist may have decided to change the background as the edition was being produced, perhaps because silver mica is a lighter and more stable material than brass powder which is heavier and has a tendency to lift from the paper (the discoloration in the margins of this impression was probably caused in part by the shifting of the brass powder). While the instablity of brass powder would have been known to the printers, the artist likely attempted the lavish application in the background with the expectation that the material would darken with oxidation, emphasizing the glow of the candle light, the very title of the print.

Kendall H. Brown, et. al., Light in Darkness: Women in Japanese Prints of Early Showa (1926-1945), Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, 1996, p. 10, cat. no. 7 (with descriptive title, 'Bride')
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Juda Collection, accession no. M.73.37.540 (silver mica background)
(inv. no. C-3203)

price: $3,500

Taki Shuho

silver mica version in presentation folder

Taki Shuho

text from series pamphlet


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