Kunichika, 36 Modern Restaurants and Views of Civilisation - Yojuro Restaurant at Shintomicho

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Thirty-Six Modern Restaurants and Views of Civilisation:  Yojuro Restaurant at Shintomicho, 1878. Oban.

This outstanding piece of design is from a little known series by Kunichika from 1878. Kunichika was commissioned by businesses from time to time, as were other ukiyo-e artists. This form of sponsorship has an echo today with modern forms of product placement, Kunichika produced another set of commissioned restaurant prints in 1871 and Hiroshige and Kuniyoshi worked on similar scenes. The practice shows how popular woodblock prints were at the time with the urban public and might compare today were Coca-cola to commission Damien Hirst to produce an affordable edition of photographs for example.

The print is redolent also of scenes by the new European realists in Paris at roughly the same time. Degas and Manet, for instance, experimented with these close cropped compositions; a seemingly artless slice of life, a busy street, an open door, evening revellers taking in a show or a stroll or entering a restaurant. The raised viewpoint allows a vista over the rooftops of the rapidly growing city, with the evidence of industry across the bay; while in the foreground the traditionally dressed geisha on the balcony are exchanging pleasantries with the men down on the ground; which of these Kunichika intended as a 'view of civilisation' is not entirely clear!

The architecture and drawing are immaculate and the scene of ‘floating-world’ pleasure is beautifully realised. A very nice print with fine colour and impression and in fine condition.

Publisher: Takekawa Seikichi.

35.5 x 24.5 cm.