Miki Suizan (1887-1957, 三木翠山) was born in Kinashi, Hyôgo prefecture. His personal name was Miki Saiichirô. He studied painting with the Kyoto artist Takeuchi Seihô (1864-1942). Aside from his Nihonga (Japanese-style paintings: 日本画), his prints appear to number only 14 (6 figure portraits and 8 landscapes), published by Satô Shôtarô in Kyoto in 1924. Impressions of all 14 prints were exhibited, along with the works of leading shin hanga (new prints: 新版画) artists, in a special showing held at the Toledo Museum of Art in March 1930. The exhibition had a significant impact in the United States on collecting and curatorial attitudes toward shin hanga, raising awareness of the genre and promoting scholarly appreciation and sales to museums and individuals.
The design shown here was no. 122 in the Toledo catalogue, which further identifies Suizan as a hobbyist in cultivating chrysanthemums and a collector of ceramic wares, paintings, and fine antique textiles. It also states that, "It is hard to say whether he excels in figures or landscapes, but perhaps his landscapes are simpler and often more effective than his figures."
Shoka no Hozugawa (Early summer on the Hozu River: 初夏の保津川) features three boatman navigating the Hozu River flowing through a rocky gorge as they transport two male passengers. Modern travelers can take advantage of a Hozugawa kudari ("going down the Hozu River": 保津川下り), a popular sightseeing boat tour that takes tourists downstream from Kameoka to Arashiyama in western Kyoto where the Hozugawa flows into the Katsuragawa. Along the route down the Hozugawa, there are still some stretches of the river with low-gradient whitewater rapids.
The gakô (preparatory drawing or sketch: 画稿) indicates that Suizan had worked out most of the final design, although he has drawn three passengers facing the shore instead of two looking downstream in the kyôgôzuri (keyblock proofs: 校合摺) and the published version. The first kyôgôzuri is similar to the gakô, but without details in the distant hills found in the published nishiki-e ("brocade picture," i.e., full-color woodblock print: 錦絵). The second kyôgôzuri shows the addition of some trees, but is less complete than in the nishiki-e.
Our impression of the published print differs slightly from the description given in the 1930 Toledo catalog (see ref. below), which indicates that there should be an edition seal on the verso (missing on ours, it would include an impression number from a total of 200) and that the title should be printed in the margin (see Brown 2013 ref. below; our print has the title within the image at the lower right). We are uncertain as to whether ours is a somewhat later edition, though still possibly lifetime, or an edition before the numbered impressions. An even later edition is known, probably posthumous, also with the title in the right margin.
The block cutter for this design was Maeda and the printer Ôiwa Tokuzô.
The koban recut is part of an attractive small-format guidebook, A Complete Guide to Kyoto by Akiyama Aisaburo (in English, 1936), which includes three other recut designs by different artists (Taniguchi Kôkyo's "Heron maiden," Yoshikawa Kanpô's "Cherry Blossoms, Maruyama Park, Kyoto," and Nomura Yoshimitsu's "Autumn Scenery at Takao"), all originally published by Satô Shôtarô.
- Brown, Kendall: Fresh Impressions: Early Modern Japanese Prints. Toledo Museum of Art, 2013, pp. 129-130, no. 129.
- Reigle-Stephens, Amy: The New Wave, Twentieth-century Japanese prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection. Leiden: Hotei Japanese Prints, 1993, p. 159.
- Toledo Museum of Art, Special Exhibition of Modern Japanese Prints. Toledo Museum of Art, 1930, nos. 114-127 (NB, no. 122).