fan crest   title
Home •  Recent Update •  Sales Gallery •  Archives
Articles •  Varia •  Glossary •  Biographies •  Bibliography
Search •  Video •  Contact Us •  Conditions of Sale •  Links

Kawanishi Hide (川西英)

Nunobiki no medaki (Nunobiki Female Waterfall, 布引の雌滝) no. 97 from the series Kobe hyakkei (One Hundred Views of Kobe: 神戸百景)
Signed "Hide" (英) in block at lower right; also "Kawanishi Hide" (川西英) printed on accompanying label
Artist seal: Hide (ひで) below block signature at lower right
Self-carved, self-printed (自刻 自摺) on accompanying label
(H x W)
Sôsaku hanga woodblock print
17.5 x 28.5 cm
Very good
Excellent color, unbacked; no condition issues of note
Price (USD/¥):
$715 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry: Ref #KWN24


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 katsura or ho wood, and printed on hodomura paper. He produced a large number of single-sheet designs (possibly as many as 1,000), as well as 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 with more international subjects.

For more about this artist, see Kawanishi Biography.


This is design no. 97 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.

Nunobiki no taki (Nunobiki Waterfalls, 布引の滝) comprises a series of four waterfalls (Ontaki, Medaki, Tsutsumigadaki, and Meotodaki) plus smaller cascades and man-modified falls near downtown Kobe. Nunobiki no medaki (Nunobiki Female Waterfall, 布引の雌滝) is the so-called "female" counterpart to Ontaki, the "male" falls (for which Kawanishi also designed a view as no. 23 in the series). The falls have been mentioned in Japanese literature for well over a thousand years. The Ise monogatari (Tales of Ise, 伊勢物語, c. late ninth century) describes a trip taken by a minor official and his guests to Nunobiki Falls, where they engage in a poetry-writing contest (uta-awase, 歌合).

In Kawanishi's design, a cluster of trees, some in deep shadow, nearly obscure a tight view through the foliage where one can see a waterfall (actually, an unprinted portion of paper) beyond a covered bridge from whose roof hangs pairs of red paper lanterns. The composition is as much about the trees and shadows as it is about the schematic rendering of the falls. The simplification of forms also introduces a small measure of abstraction into the arrangement of colors and shapes.


  • 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. 65, series no. 63, cat. no. 63-87.
  • 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.