Gekko, The Battle at Tien-Chuang-Tai - The Gathering of 11 Generals

Ogata Gekko (1859-1920) The Battle at Tien-Chuang-Tai: The Gathering of Eleven Generals, 1895. Oban triptych.

Click here for a full-size image of the right-hand panel.

Nathan Chaikin in his book, The Sino-Japanese War, describes this print and the circumstances surrounding the subject matter thus:

The entire staff, an imposing one, stands still as the city is burning.  Their names as they appear on the script:

Yamaji, Chūjō (Lieutenant-General); Oshima Hisanao, Shōsō (Major-General); Nozu, Taishō (Marshal); Katsura, Chūjō; Nogi, Shōsō; Nishi, Shōsō; Oshima Yoshimasa, Shōsō; Oseko, Shōsō; Kuroda, Shōsō; Oku (perhaps Okuyama?), Chūjō; Ogawa, Shōsō.

One of Gekkō's masterpieces.  The range of colours, totally his, the beautiful conception of the "end of the day", the raging fire and the tormented pine trees soon to burst into flames, the whiteness of the snow, and a certain sense of futility pervading the morning, the feeling of wastefulness of it all.  Yes, a very great artist, a master...

This is the end of the road for the Japanese.  The Chinese retreated to North Chinchou (or Chinchow), and the country was now clear of them on both sides of the Liao river for a distance of 30 to 40 miles north-east of Yingkow (or Yingtzu), whilst on the Liaoyang road their most advanced post was north-east of Anchanchan. (Chaikin, The Sino-Japanese War, Martigny 1983.)

It’s as good a description as any. This is a fine woodblock print by any standards, the use of colour and the hand-applied and hand-crafted elements bring to mind the great delicacy of European watercolour, which prints like this would undoubtedly go on to inform, just as much as that genre itself fed back into nineteenth century Japanese culture and softened and westernised its unique and harsh depictions. Despite the now complete westernisation of the art form in the work of artists like Gekko, Kokunimasa and so on, we are still looking at the sentiments and the compositions of Kuniyoshi and the great musha-e tradition.  The force of victory and duty at all costs pervades all of these works.

It is a superb piece as noted. Colour, impression and condition are all very fine. Embossing to the cartouche.  Full-size with margins on all sheets.

Published by Sekiguchi Masajiro.

75 x 37 cm.