Chikanobu, Toyohara

Toyohara Chikanobu (豊原周延, 1838–1912), better known to his contemporaries as Yōshū Chikanobu (楊洲周延), was a prolific woodblock artist of Japan’s Meiji era. Chikanobu was a retainer of the Sakakibara clan of Takada Domain in the Echigo Province. During the Meiji Restoration, he joined the shogitai, an elite samurai brigade in direct support of the shogun’s court, and fought in the Battle of Ueno in 1868. He joined Tokugawa loyalists in Hakodate, Hokkaidō, where he fought in the Battle of Hakodate at the Goryōkaku star fort. He served under the leadership of Enomoto Takeaki and Ōtori Keisuke and achieved fame for his bravery.

As the Shogunate fell Chikanobu turned to a career in art. Originally trained in the Kano school of painting, he shifted his attention to ukiyo-e in 1875 and began his printmaking career under the tutelage of the Utagawa School masters Kuniyoshi, Kunisada and Kunichika. He studied with a disciple of Keisai Eisen and then he joined the school of Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi; during this period, he called himself Yoshitsuru. After Kuniyoshi’s death, he studied with Kunisada.

His works capture the transition from the age of the samurai to Meiji modernity, the artistic chaos of the Meiji period exemplifying the concept of “furumekashii/imamekashii“.