Elizabeth Keith


Street Scene, Soochow

signed with red crayon in lower right corner, Elizabeth Keith, beside artist's oval EK seal and dated 1924 below, titled in pencil on the bottom margin, Street Scene Soochow, published by Watanabe Shozaburo, 1924

oban tate-e 15 7/8 by 10 3/4 in., 40.4 by 27.4 cm

Alternate title: Street Scene, Soochow in Kiang-su

Miles quotes Keith's comments on this scene: "A street in the ancient walled city of Soochow. Here the green carrying chair and the rickshaw are blocking up most of the way. The shops are mostly open to the street and from their fronts hang the shop signs painted on coloured banners." Keith's patron and friend, Gertrude Bass Warner (1863-1951), donated a pencil and ink drawing related to this print to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum at the University of Oregan.

Keith returned to London in 1924, and in the following year this print was included in her first European exhibition, 'Colour-Prints of the Far East' at the Beaux Arts Gallery in Bruton Place, which was announced to great fanfare with full-page illustrations, including this print, in a supplement accompanying an article in the November 21st edition of the Illustrated London News. The reviewer begins with an opinion popular at the time that ukiyo-e peaked in the 18th century: "masters of that time carried colour-printing to such a high level of perfection that to this day they stand unrivalled" but that it "seemed at last as if it could find no further direction in which to develop so that towards the beginning of the nineteenth century it languished and has declined and almost died since then." Asserting that the "mantle of these masters has fallen on the shoulders of a young English artist, Miss Elizabeth Keith, who seems, partly through intuition and partly through skill, to have rediscovered their forgotten secrets...revived the lost art in our own time." Interestingly, the article does make mention of the highly skilled carvers and printers needed to produce the prints, but all the credit is given to Keith as a "born designer" who by "supplying the missing element" and her "constant supervision" achieves "the most outstanding examples of the modern revival of colour-printing in any land." Alas, no mention of her visionary publisher, Watanabe.

The paper followed-up on February 20, 1926, with a second supplement of additional illustrations. The enthusiastic publicity may have been what prompted a visit to the exhibition by H.I.H. Prince Yasuhito Chichibu, the brother of H.I.M. Emperor Taisho of Japan, who was a student at Oxford at the time.

F.L., Eastern Art Revived by British Artist: Keith "Japanese" Colour-Prints, Illustrated London News, November 21, 1925, and Supplement, February 20, 1926
Elizabeth Keith, Eastern Windows: An Artist's Notes of Travel in Japan, Hokkaido, Korea, China, and the Philippines, 1928, tipped in color illustration p. 64
Malcolm C. Salaman, Masters of the Colour Print: Elizabeth Keith, The Studio, 1933, plate IV
Elizabeth Keith (1887-1856): The Orient Through Western Eyes, Exhibition of Works from the Murray Warner Collection in The Museum of Art; University of Oregon, 1974, cat. no. 1, illus. (drawing)
Richard Miles, Elizabeth Keith: The Printed Works, 1991, p. 30, no. 13
Yokohama Museum of Art, ed., Eyes Towards Asia: Ukiyo-e Artists from Abroad (Ajiae no me gaikokujin no ukiyo-e shitachi), 1996, p. 103, no. 128a
Jordan Schnitzer Museum, University of Oregan, accession nos. MWB51:K50 (print) & MWB59:K3 (drawing)
(inv. no. C-3048)

price: $3,000

Elizabeth Keith

preparatory drawing, Jordan Schnitzer Museum, accession no. MWB59:K3


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