Hirano Hakuho


Summer Rain, Beppu
(Natsusugata Beppu)

a view from behind of a beauty standing on veranda overlooking the water, fan in one hand-pulling hair pin out of hair; dated Showa juichinen natsu (Showa 11 [1936], summer) and signed Hakuho, with artist's seal Hakuho, natsu [summer]), published by Watanabe Shozaburo, 1936

20 1/2 by 10 1/8 in., 52 by 25.6 cm

Born in Kyoto, Hirano Hakuho was a self-taught Nihonga and ukiyo-e style painter known for his portrayals of beauties in gorgeous kimono. The publisher Watanabe Shozabruo (1885-1962) issued six prints by Hakuho from 1932 to 1936, with half of those designs depicting women from behind, naturally focusing our attention on the careful carving and printing of the pattern on their kimono. Two Hakuho prints, a nude titled After a Bath, and Girl Before a Mirror, were included in the shin-hanga exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art which opened in March of 1936 and facilitated sales by mail order (Hakuho's nude print sold out). The accompanying exhibition catalogue aligned Hakuho's work with ukiyo-e masters in the artist's biography: "The excellence of these items ranks him with the justly famous men of the eighteenth century" followed by the lamentation, "Unfortunately, only two examples of the work of this skilful[sic] wood-block print designer and artist could be secured."

This print, dated summer 1936, was issued too late to be included in the Toledo show and the subsequent traveling exhibition managed by The College Art Association. Perhaps for this reason Watanabe did not produce additional print runs as it is surprisingly scarce for such an accomplished print. For it is this design that is the most memorable and most elusive of Hakuho's work. Rarely on the market, the elegant composition and masterful execution of the woodblock printing process exemplify the finest work produced in the shin-hanga genre.

This print is particularly subtle impression, and lacking Watanabe's seals, likely represents an early stage in its development. In comparison with published examples, the first noticeable difference is the color of the pattern on the towel draped over the railing, rose-red here, but pale blue on standard impressions, which also have lighter coloration of differing hues on the porch and railing. In addition, and the lovely blue morning glory on this fan is not printed on other examples. The most intriguing variation is that other impressions do not have the soft grey vertical lines of rain achieved by careful manipulation of the baren by the printer as is found on this print. All of these differences suggest deliberate decisions made to simplify and lighten the background in order increase the contrast and focus attention on the figure and her diaphanous summer kimono which is magnificently printed with swirling baren-sujizuri (the pattern created by the movement of the baren from verso). The elimination of the rain in the background is reflected in changes to the title. Although the Japanese title, Natsu-sugata, Beppu, can be translated as 'Summer Look, Beppu' or 'Summer Appearance, Beppu', Watanabe variously titled it in English, 'Summer Rain, Beppu,' or more often (accurately dropping the rain from the title), variations of 'Summer Kimono, Beppu.'

Toledo Museum of Art, Modern Japanese Prints: Woodblock Prints by Ten Artists of the Work of the Past Five Years, 1936 (artist's bio)
Kendall H. Brown & Hollis Goodall-Cristante, Shin-Hanga: New Prints in Modern Japan, 1996, p. 64, fig. 79 (titled: Summer Rain)
Reigle Newland, Amy, and Hamanaka Shinji, The Female Image: 20th Century Prints of Japanese Beauties, 2000, p. 154, pl. 212 (titled: Woman in Summer Kimono at Beppu)
Ukiyo-e Modern: Shinsui, Goyo, Hasui, TraditionThriving (Ukiyo-e Modan: Shinsui, Goyo, Hasui, dento mokuhanga no ryusei), Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, 2005, p. 53, no. 137 (Japanese title only: Natsu-sugata)
Koyama Shuko, Beautiful Shin Hanga- Revitalization of Ukiyo-e, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, 2009, p. 117, no. 3-24 (titled: Summer Rain, Beppu Hotsprings)
Chris Uhlenbeck, Amy Reigle Newland and Maureen de Vries, Waves of Renewal: Modern Japanese Prints, 1900-1960, Selection from the Nihon no hanga Collection, 2016, p. 113, no. 25 (titled: Summer Kimono [Beppu])
Ukiyo-e Modern: Shinsui's Beauties, Hasui's Landscapes, and...(Ukiyo-e Modan: Shinsui no bijin, Hasui no fukei, soshite...), Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, 2018, p. 45, no.64 (titled: Summer Kimono [Beppu])
Chris Uhlenbeck, Jim Dwinger, Philo Ouweleen, Shin hanga: The New Prints of Japan 1900-1960, 2022, p. 116, cat. 104 (titled: Summer Kimono [Beppu])
Abe Shuichi, Prints of Japanese Beauties in the 20th Century, 2022, p. 155, no. 244 (titled: Woman in Summer Kimono [at Beppu])

(inv. no. 10-5765)

price: (reserved)


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site last updated
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Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
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