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SEITEI Japanese Woodblock Print TWO HERONS 1930s

Availability: 1 available

SEITEI Japanese Woodblock Print TWO HERONS 1930s


Two Herons Beneath a Willow

Date: 1930s, published posthumously, signed Seitei Watanabe
Size: chuban, 8.5" X 11"
Condition: VG, no flaws, uncirculated print, never framed, rounded corners and light age toning
Impression: Fine, tight registration
Color: Fine, saturated color and bleed through to verso
Provenance: from the Robert O. Muller estate

Watanabe Seitei (1851-1900) is best known for his paintings and prints of birds and flowers, or kacho-e. Born with the name Yoshikawa Yoshimata, Seitei trained with the historical genre painter, Kikuchi Yosai. At the age of sixteen, he was adopted by Watanabe Koshi, a family friend with literary connections. After this, he took the artist's name Watanabe Seitei. He continued to paint steadily while working as a ceramics designer and industrial draftsman. In 1878, one of his paintings was accepted into the Paris Exposition where it won a silver medal. Seitei took the opportunity to visit Paris. There he was exposed to contemporary European paintings which utilized light and shadow, and perspective to give the impression of dimensionality. Seitei's later work was undoubtedly influenced by this experience.

Around 1890, Seitei began designing woodblock prints, completing his first album of bird and flower prints in 1891. His second album, called simply the Bird and Flower album (Kacho gafu), was published in 1903. Two years before his death, Seitei completed his third and final album of 22 prints, called the Album of bird-and-flower by Seitei (Seitei kacho gafu). These prints are considered among his finest kacho-e artwork. They were published by Okura Yasugoro, a little known Tokyo publisher.

Seitei's designs combine graceful calligraphic lines with delicate details and shading. His simple compositions are dynamically asymmetrical with an abundance of negative space. In the shikishiban print, Carp, the two fish are positioned in the corner of the design, leaving the rest of the page as negative space. This composition is balanced by sweeping horizontal bands of color, probably representing water ripples. Watanabe Seitei's work in the kacho-e genre was an important influence on the early shin hanga movement, especially on the artists Mizuno Toshikata and Kaburagi Kiyokata.

--quoted from

Robert O. Muller’s love affair with Japanese prints began one day in the 1930s, when as a student in New York City he spotted a Hasui in a gallery window, and immediately arranged to purchase the print. Later, as a newly wed in 1940 he went on a print shopping tour to Japan with his wife where he met the shin hanga publisher Watanabe Shozaburo and Watanabe’s stable of artists including: Kawase Hasui, Shiro Kasamatsu, and Ito Shinsui. He also met and befriended Hiroshi Yoshida.

After WWII, Muller continued to deal in Japanese prints, but he was also an avid collector with a keen eye for good art. Although the Muller Collection is best known for shin hanga, Mr. Muller also collected late nineteenth century prints and good reproductions of famous Edo masters.

When Mr. Muller passed away on April 10, 2003, he had left possibly the largest and finest collection of 20th century Japanese prints in the world, and the question of what would become of his notorious collection was a major topic among Japanese print collectors. The finest 20th century prints from his collection were given as a gift to the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., and an exhibit was mounted. Other portions of the collection were sold at auction and still more remains with his heirs. Several books have been published about the collection.


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