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Kawanishi Hide (川西英)

Description:
Kôkasen (Elevated Railway: 高架線) from the series Kobe hyakkei (One Hundred Views of Kobe: 神戸百景)
Signature:
Signed "Hide" (英) in block at upper left
Seals:
Artist seal: Hide (ひで) below block signature at upper left
Publisher:
Self-carved, self-printed, self-published
Date:
1935
Format:
(H x W)
Sôsaku hanga woodblock print, small format
16.7 x 27.7 cm
Impression:
Very good (see note below) *
Condition:
Excellent color, unbacked; Right margin somewhat soiled, tiny filled pinholes in upper corners
Price (USD/¥):
$990 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)
RESERVED

Order/Inquiry: Ref #KWN18

Comments:
Background

Kawanishi Hide (川西英), 1894-1965, whose given name was Hideo, was born and worked in Kobe, an international port city that inspired much of his subject matter. He was employed as a postmaster, but his ancestors were merchants, particularly traders in several alcoholic spirits, sake (酒 or nihonshu 日本酒), mirin (味醂), and shôchû (焼酎), which they transported to Tokyo in their fleet of ships. Kawanishi's family opposed his becoming involved in painting and printmaking. A self-taught artist, Kawanishi started painting in oils, but turned to woodblock printmaking after seeing a print by Yamamoto Kanae (A small bay in Brittany) displayed in a shop window in Osaka. He was not interested in ukiyo-e, although Nagasaki-e naturally fascinated him, with its exotic ships and foreign traders. Gradually abandoning oils, Kawanishi fell under the influence of the Art Deco poster style of the 1920s and first exhibited prints in 1923 with the Nihon Sôsaku Hanga Kyôkai (Japan Creative Print Association 日本創作版画協会 founded 1918). Other influences were Takehisa Yumeji (竹久夢二), Onchi Kôshirô (恩地孝四郎), Yamamoto Kanae (山本鼎), and European artists such as Lautrec, Gaugin, Van Gogh, Leger, and Matisse.

Kawanishi used poster colors and sumi (Japanese carbon black, i.e., soot, water, and glue), cutting his blocks with a curved chisel to obtain soft edges. He used two types of fine-grained wood for his blocks: katsura (Judas tree: 桂) and ho (magnolia: 朴), and printed on hodomura (程村) paper. He produced a large number of single-sheet designs (more than 1,200), some included in printed albums and books, and sets or series. The latter included Shôwa bijin fûzoku jûnitai (Twelve customs of beauties from the Shôwa era), 1929; Kobe jûnigagetsu fûkei (Scenes of Kobe during the twelve months), 1931; and Hanga Kobe hyakkei (Prints of one hundred views of Kobe), 1935. Kawanishi was awarded the Hyôgo Prefecture Culture Prize (1949) and the Kobe Shinbun Peace Prize (1962). His son Kawanishi Yûzaburô (1923-2014) worked in his father's style, but generally with more international subjects.

For more about this artist, see Kawanishi Biography.

Design

This is design no. 15 from Kawanishi's series Kôbe hyakkei (One Hundred Views of Kobe: 神戸百景) as shown in the Kobe City Memorial Museum catalog (2014; see ref. below). The series was prompted by two occurrences. First, from 1929 to 1932, there was the publication of the collaborative Shin Tokyo hyakkei (One hundred views of new Tokyo: 新東京百景) involving eight different artists, which served as an inspirational model for a contemporary remake of the 100-views theme already familiar in the nineteenth-century ukiyo-e tradition. In particular, Kawanishi liked the twelve scenes by Kawakami Sumio (川上澄生 also 川上澄夫 1895-1972). Kawanishi, in fact, owned an impression of Kawakami's Marunouchi kumoribi (A cloudy day in Marunouchi: 丸の内曇日). The second event that inspired the series came in 1933 when the inaugural Kobe minato no matsuri ("port festival": みなとの祭) was held, which suggested to Kawanishi that it was an occasion to celebrate his home town through his own print series. In 1933, Kawanishi designed the first print and finished all 100 designs by 1936 — a significant effort given that he carved all the blocks and printed the initial impressions.

The first elevated railway in Japan was planned in 1889 for the Shinbashi-Ueno section of the Tokyo Metropolitan Elevated Line, but was not built until 1909, and even then the viaduct was constructed mainly of brick arches in one section of Tokyo Station. Less than two decades later, following the completion of Osaka's Tenjinbashi-suji Viaduct on Hankyû Railway's Senri Line in 1925, the cities of Osaka and Kobe constructed elevated railways, one after the other, funded by government and private railways. Excluding bridges spanning roads, most structures used reinforced-concrete, rigid-frame construction. That would seem to be the case with Kawanishi's "Elevated Railway" as depicted in his woodcut from 1935. Scenes such as this signaled the modernizing of Kobe and the heralding of technological advances for a new age.

* NOTE: Our impression of Kawanishi's "Elevated Railway" was self-printed and, given the rougher printing of the black pigment for the train and electric lines, and the somewhat (for Kawanishi) atypical gradation in the sky, might be an artist's proof. This places our impression in a unique category that should be enormously appealing to collectors of Kawanishi's works or sôsaku hanga in general.

References:

  • D'Orlando, A., de Vries, M, Uhlenbeck, C. and Wessels, E.: Nostalgia and Modernity: The Styles of Komura Settai and Kawanishi Hide. Amsterdam: Nihon no Hanga, spring 2012., (exhibition cat.).
  • Kawanishi Hide, Gashû "Kôbe hyakkei" Kawanishi Hide ga aishita fûkei (Collected pictures, "100 Scenes of Kobe," favorite scenes of Kawanishi Hide: 画集『神戸百景』川西英が愛した風景), 2008.
  • Kobe City Koiso Memorial Museum of Art: (Kawanishi Hide, the retrospective. 120th anniversary of his birth (Kobe shiritsu Koiso kinen bijutsukan (神戸市立小磯記念美術館), Kawanishi hide kaiko ten — Seitan ichihyakunijû nen (川西回顧展 生誕120年). Kobe: 2014, p. 83, series no. 15, cat. no. 63-87.
  • Konishi, Junichi: Japan Railway and Transport Review, No. 59, Feb. 2012, p. 50.
  • Uhlenbeck, C., Newland, A.R., de Vries, M.: Waves of renewal: modern Japanese prints, 1900 to 1960, Selections from the Nihon no hanga collections, Amsterdam. Hotei Publishing, 2016, pp. 240-246.