Children at the Fair
color woodblock print with subtle goma-zuri (sesame printing) and overlapping baren-sujizuri (baren swirls) in the gradation of the lower half of the figures; with artist's monogram carved in the background block, FC and dated Tokyo 1915, and pencil signed on the bottom margin, F. Capelari Tokyo 1915, published by Watanabe Shozaburo, 1915
9 by 5 7/8 in., 22.9 by 14.9 cm
To some, the twelve Capelari prints produced by Watanabe Shozaburo in 1915 could be considered the first shin-hanga ('new prints'). Certainly, it was the first time that Watanabe successfully recruited an artist from outside the traditional Japanese master-student system. And although many of the designs and subjects resonate with classic ukiyo-e, at the same time, the modern (or Western) influences are evident. This design, however, of two children captured in the glowing light of an evening fair, is a departure from those classic themes and represents the experimental nature of their collaboration in seeking a balance between old ideas in a new format.
For this new endeavor, Watanabe used a higher quality paper that he had rarely used for his previous print productions, a financial investment indicative of his commitment to the project. And much to the chagrin of his printers, he pushed the craftsmen to go against their training to print colors smooth and evenly, and instead use the baren on its edge to create swirling patterns and allow the speckles of paper to show through the pigment. These unconventional printing techniques revealed the textures of the fine paper and emphasized the unique qualities of the woodblock printing process.
Although he was happy with his collaborations with Capelari, Watanabe needed something more 'Japanese' for both his export and domestic market. He approached another young artist, Hashiguchi Goyo (1880-1921), one of the top graduates of the Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko (Tokyo School of Fine Arts). Here was a Japanese artist who was trained in Western-style painting, who happened to be a very serious student of classical ukiyo-e (having written monographs about three important artists). Watanabe convinced Goyo to collaborate on a single print of a beauty in 1915, but apparently Goyo, trained in the Western style with emphasis on individual creativity, was not comfortable with working with a publisher (perhaps Watanabe in particular) and opted to go his own way and self-publish thereafter
This design may have been inspired by a watercolor by Mortimer Menpes, 'By the Light of the Lantern' published in his 1901 travel memoir, Japan: A Record in Colour.
Amy Reigle Stephens, gen. ed., The New Wave: Twentieth-century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection, 1993, pp. 45-46 (on Watanabe & Capelari)
Yokohama Museum of Art, Eyes Towards Asia: Ukiyo-e Artists from Abroad, 1996, p. 69, no. 74
Koyama Shuko, Beautiful Shin-hanga: Revitalization of Ukiyo-e, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, 2009, pp. 265-267 (on Watanabe & Capelari)
(inv. no. 10-5401)
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site last updated
May 25, 2023
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
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