Special Collection - Various Artists

Special Collection - Various Artists

This page displays our special collection of ukiyo-e prints (not for sale currently). These prints represent a variety of artists and genres. Prints that we think are exceptional aesthetically and/or thematically. There's no particular order in the presentation.


Mongaku doing penace at the Nachi waterfall


What better image to start off our Mie Gallery, Special Collections page? This is Kunichika's "Mongaku Doing Penace at the Nachi Waterfall" and a great example of the “nirami” or crosseyed glare. After mistakenly beheading his beloved, Kesa Gozen, while attempting to kill her husband, the warrior Endo Morito renounced his evil ways and became a Buddhist monk. He prayed for twenty-one days under the icy waterfall, only surviving with divine assistance. Kunichika designed several images of this tale, but I think this is one of the most direct and powerful.

Woman watching fireworks at Shinobazu Park


I think this is one of the most beautiful "Bijin-ga" images from Toyohara Kunichika, "Woman Watching Fireworks at Shinobazu Park" (上野公園より不忍花火の夜景). It's from a triptych printed in 1887. Unfortunately I only have this panel. Her relaxed expression, and breezy summer kimono are gorgeously rendered. Behind her, one can sense the excitement of the evening celebrations.



Fireworks at Ryogoku in the Evening Cool


Keeping with the Bijin-ga fireworks theme, here is "Fireworks at Ryogoku in the Evening Cool". This is also by Kunichika, and Yasuji Inoue, from
 1887. Beautiful scene of a beauty enjoying the evening cool at Ryogoku as fireworks explode in the night sky, sending down showers of colorful sparks. She wears a blue print summer cotton kimono over a red under robe, tied with an obi that reverses from green and blue checks to a yellow print, her sleeves blowing in the breeze. Behind her boats filled with people enjoying the display fill the river, with teahouses lining the opposite shore, red lanterns hanging from their eaves. A terrific design with fine line work in the hair and handsome wood grain impression in the night sky.


Kameido Uramon, Tamaya


Taking a break from Kunichika, here's a wonderful print from Hiroshige "Kameido Uramon, Tamaya" (Back gate of Kameido Shrine, Tamaya Restaurant, 江戸高名會亭盡 亀戸裏門 玉屋), ca. 1838-1840, from the series Edo komei kaitei zukushi (Collection of famous Edo restaurants). The red gate on the right is the back gate of Kameido Tenmangu. You can find this print in these major collections https://collections.mfa.org/objects/237051 and https://www.hiroshige.org.uk/Views_Of_Edo/Images/EdoRestaurants_12_TamataKameido.jpg On this website we have a couple of articles about restaurant-themed woodblock prints, along with a collection of Kunichika's "36 Modern Restaurants".





This print is "Yoshiwara" from Hiroshige and Kunisada's collaborative "Twin Brushes" Tokaido series. In the foreground, Toyokuni depicts the priest Saigyo sitting with his knees to his chest, his hands clasped as he looks up to contemplate the view of Mt. Fuji in Hiroshige's landscape above. He wears a gray robe shadowed in black, his woven hat and walking staff beside him. Above, a large pine tree with colorful vines climbing up it frames a view of rice fields stretching across the valley, the snow-capped peak of Mt. Fuji rising in the distance. 


Nakamura Utaemon IV as Kiyomori


Now, let's get back to a powerful actor image "Nakamura Utaemon IV as Kiyomori". From the series: Tôto kômei kaiseki tsukushi (Famous Restaurants of the Eastern Capital). The restaurant featured is "Hirasei" in Fukagawa-dobashi. Date: 1/1853. This handsome print is from a collaborative series by Kunisada and Hiroshige. Kunisada created the large actor portraits in the foreground, with Hiroshige designing the smaller landscape and still-life insets relating to the featured restaurant or its location. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has many of these images in its collection.



Tokyo Kaika Kyoga Meisho


Now a comic departure to an interesting Yoshitoshi print from his series 'Crazy Pictures of Famous Places in Tōkyō' (Tōkyō kaika kyōga meishō ) 1881. This image will resonate with any food service worker. 

Maboroshi (The Wizard)


Another contemplative image from Ogata Gekko - 1893. This is Chapter 41. From the 54 Chapters of the Tale of Genji.



pride of glossy makeup
pride of glossy makeup 2

Two prints by Kunichika from a rare series "Pride of Glossy Makeup" 艶姿化粧自慢  Published by Iseki, in 1866. The women are in the process of applying makeup. The bold background images include icons of cosmetic companies. Is this an advertisement for them, a commentary on female vanity, or just an intimate portrait of women in various stages of beautification?

Shiraga bosetsu


This gorgeous Utagawa Kuniyoshi print was given to me by my Uncle Michael in the early 1990's. Printed in 1851, it depicts "Shiraga Bosetsu" 白髪暮雪 (series) Aumi hakkei (Personal Encounters for the Eight Views). An unidentified actor with long white hair viewed from the rear in an elaborate robe with the design of a junk, standing amongst falling cherry blossoms. 



kunichika original line drawing
kunichika original line drawing 2
kunichika original line drawing 3

This was a great find, original sketches by Kunichika for his Okubi-e (large head) actor portraits series. These were purchased from a German museum collection. This series was influenced by the Kunisada okubi-e of 1860 - 64. Kunichika returned to this style only once more in a small series of okubi-e in 1894.

A Human Textile Pattern to Stop You from Yawning


A wrinkled but fascinating print "A Human Textile Pattern to Stop You from Yawning": With Fourteen Bodies, It Looks Like Thirty-five People - Circa 1842. This comic design by Kuniyoshi is of interlocking bodies forming a textile design. This type of subject falls under the genre of "yaso-e" or "gather together pictures," designs that combine figures to create other kinds of objects or forms. A great example of Kuniyoshi's imaginative comic prints.


Taikobo Fishing without Bait


Ogata Gekko's print of the elderly scholar Taikobo (the Chinese Tai Gongwang) sitting on a rocky outcrop fishing. The interesting part is that he fished without bait because he was not really interested in catching fish, but rather in using the quiet time to think. He is wrapped in a tan robe, seated on an animal skin, quietly watching the line for any sign of movement. The banners of the emperor's procession appear over the distant hillside, the mountains below rendered in pale gray. An attractive natural setting with a soft color palette.


The strangeness of Kou fish

This is one of those pictures that once seen cannot be easily forgotten. It's by Kuniteru Utagawa "Otaru Zenibako, the strangeness of the Kou (Sting Ray) fish". Utagawa Kuniteru was an artist in the tradition of the Utagawa school. Born in Tokyo, he studied under both Kunisada and Toyokuni I. He produced prints of a wide variety of subjects, including many depicting the increasing Western influence on Japan, with his main output taking the form of book illustrations and single-sheet ukiyo-e.


Kabuki Actor in dressing room
Kabuki Actor in dressing room 2
Kabuki Actor in dressing room 3

An unusual series of actor prints by Kunichika called "Actors Back Stage". These intimate images reinforce the relationships that Kunichika had with leading actors of the time. (from left to right) Ichikawa Danjuro IX Being Cooled by an Unseen Attendant Fanning Him, Actor Onoe Kikugoro in the dressing room, Gennosuke IV in the dressing room preparing for a female role. These were published by Toyokichi Sasaki in 1888, so toward the end of Kunichika's career, still they look quite modern in composition and style.


bat umbrella

A bold print by Kunichika from a series that contrasted old Japan with new Western innovations. In this case, the umbrella that is also being worn as a cape. The actor is Ichikawa Sadanji. Date: 1877


6 famous places in tokyo
6 famous places in tokyo 2
6 famous places in tokyo 3

Kunichika: From the series "Six Famous Places of Tokyo" (Tokyo Meisho Rokassen no Uchi) Published by Sasaki Toyokichi in 1890. (From left to right) "Benten no Ume Nakamura Kojiro - Ueno. Compound of Benten shrine in Shinobazu pond in Ueno. Next is Kabuki actor Onoe Kikugoro in the role of Shinobazu no Okiku, the unscrupulous chrysanthemum" She is drying herself after a rain shower. Last print has yet to be identified.

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