Tomioka Eisen (1864 - 1905) Shipwreck, 1891. Oban Diptych.
Superb first edition print of a shipwreck scene from the Sino-Japanese war. These heroic scenes (called senso-e) were hugely popular and briefly gave ukiyo-e a much needed boost at a time when the woodblock print was all but dying out. These late nineteenth century war prints are suddenly finding recognition and the market for really good pieces such as this one is rapidly picking up.
The Sino-Japanese war was the first expression of the newly modernised and international Meiji Navy and Army. It was a decisive victory and sealed the new direction of Japanese domestic and international affairs. The Japanese public were hugely nationalistic and there was a big market for these prints of heroism and self sacrifice. Sadly, there were many exceptional woodblock artists who produced outstanding work in this brief period and then more or less disappeared (or starved) when public interest in ukiyo-e waned almost to nothing. Nevertheless, printing quality and technique at this time was second to none and there was particular skill at these watery, misty, smoke strewn scenes that required a watercolour approach to an essentially hard edged medium.
Tomioka Eisen was a gifted artist who died at 41. He is best remembered for his powerful and sensitive shunga pieces which fetch very high prices and for his magazine illustrations called kuchi-e. In this print he uses a bold reportage design to show the shipwreck of a Japanese officer who slides beneath the waves clutching a burnished and framed picture of the Emperor and Empress. The print quality is superb and there is delicate shading in the waves which are littered with mica and embossing to the clothes of the figure.
A rare print of high quality. Very good of the first edition, fine colour impression and condition.
50cm x 38cm.