Chikanobu, A Mirror of the Ages - The Bunsei Era

Toyohara Chikanobu (1838 - 1912)  Jidai kagami - A Mirror of the Ages: The Bunsei Era, 1897-8. Oban.

Chikanobu is one of the giants of the Meiji era of Japanese woodblock prints. With Kunichika and Yoshitoshi, Chikanobu distinguished the turmoil of Japanese culture as it came to terms with the new age. Like them his life and career were inextricably linked to the upheavals in Japanese history and the near civil wars that characterised the time.

Technically it is an exquisite print, and as a design this whole series is one of the outstanding achievements of late nineteenth century Japanese art. One of his best series, A Mirror of the Ages showed women by fashion and hair style throughout history. There is of course the longing for the past and yet these prints are unmistakably modern and of their time. The subject in each print is the finely rendered foreground figure shown as a portrait head and the upper quarter scene in grisaille showing in this case hunters disturbing herons in the reeds. The quality of printing is outstanding, especially in Chikanobu’s use of white for the rendering of the powdered faces. It is often forgotten by art historians that this was the period above all others when the technique of woodblock printing achieved its zenith whilst at the same time there were artists of stature to execute it.

In this print the woman of the Bunsei era (1818 - 1830) wears the typical hairstyle and kimono of the period. There is a great delicacy and humility in the drawing and wonderful detail in the carving of the hair and the fan that she holds in her right hand. The print is full size with wide margins. Very fine impression and colour, some slight marking to the lower left margin otherwise perfect.

Signed Yoshu Chikanobu. Published by Matsuki Heikichi.

37cm x 25cm.