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GOYO - Japanese Woodblock Print SHUNKO ACTOR 1790s

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GOYO - Japanese Woodblock Print SHUNKO ACTOR 1790s

HASHIGUCHI GOYO (1880-1921)

Shunko — bust portrait of the actor Ichikawa Monnosuke II from the album "Japanese Color Prints"


Date: carved, printed and published 1916 by Hasuiguchi Goyo, with circular Goyo seal in the image under Shunko signature at middle right, from the album "Japanese Color Prints"
Condition: VG, removed from its original backing sheet with minor residues on verso
Impression: Fine, excellent registration and solid key lines
Color: Fine, deep saturated color and bleed through to verso


Genuine, hand made Taisho era impression woodblock print carved and printed by Hashiguchi Goyo. In 1916, Goyo along with Kiyokata oversaw the production of a set of recreations of the greatest prints ever published by ukiyo-e artists entitled "Japanese Color Prints." This collection of 240 prints spanned the time from the earliest masters like Kiyohiro, to the decadents such as Kuniyoshi and Kunisada.

This print is a recut of an early ukiyo-e actor print originated by the artist Shunko (1743-1812) around 1790s. A pupil of Shunsho, Shunko was one of the leading painters and print artists of his time. Of all of Shunsho's students who devoted their work to the depiction of kabuki theater subjects, Shunko ranks first, and in his finest prints (such as this one) he is fully the equal of his master. His work extends from the early 1770s until his final year. In the late 1780s his right arm became paralyzed, but switching to his left hand, he worked on to produce the large actor bust prints which were his finest contributions to ukiyo-e.


HASHIGUCHI GOYO is one of the most celebrated shin hanga artists, known especially for his prints of beautiful women or bijin-ga. The design and carving of Goyo's prints is technically masterful, and they were lavishly printed, often with fine mica backgrounds. Goyo's standards were so high that only prints of superior quality were sold.

Goyo started his studies in traditional Japanese painting, but soon switched over to Western style painting, studying under the noted painter, Kuroda Seiki. After graduating from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1905, he began to work as a book designer and illustrator. Goyo continued to paint and had a growing interest in traditional Japanese printmaking. In 1911, he designed a ukiyo-e style poster for the Mitsukoshi department store, which won him great acclaim. This led to further studies into the art of ukiyo-e, and eventually to a collaboration with the publisher Watanabe Shozaburo.

Watanabe had many skilled carvers and printers working in his business, but lacked Western style artists to design his new shin hanga prints. In 1915, Watanabe challenged Goyo to design a print for his publishing shop, hoping that a long-term relationship could be established. The print that was produced, "Bathing", was a lovely image of high quality. Even so, Goyo was not satisfied by the printmaking standards of Watanabe's shop, and much too Watanabe's dismay, he ended their collaboration after just one print.

During 1916-17, Goyo supervised work on a 12 volume set of books called "Japanese Color Prints". These books contained reproductions of famous ukiyo-e prints by Hiroshige and other artists. This work gave Goyo a chance to learn more about printmaking, and in 1918 he hired a carver and printer for his own workshop. He worked as a print maker until 1921, when he died prematurely at the age of 31.

Only fourteen original prints were completed by Goyo's during his lifetime. Due to his exacting standards, these prints were published in very small editions, usually less than eighty in number. They were very expensive to create and therefore, were priced much higher than other shin hanga prints of the time. The blocks for these fourteen prints and many of the prints themselves were destroyed in the Kanto earthquake of 1923.

Many years after Goyo's death, his brother used Goyo's remaining designs as the basis for ten more prints. These were published with the same standards as the earlier prints and in limited numbers. The printing was supervised by Goyo's nephew, Hashiguchi Yasuo. Today, because of their rarity and extraordinary beauty, works by Goyo are among the most highly prized of all shin hanga prints.


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