This beautiful triptych, published in 1887, is originally from an album containing eight triptychs by two prominent print artists of the Meiji period, Adachi/Shōsai Ginkō and Toyohara/Yōshū Chikanobu. Except for the first triptych by Ginkō which depicts the Heian period court-lady Murasaki Shikibu, the author of the “Tale of Genji”, attending Empress Shōshi, all the other triptychs focus on sophisticated women performing social activities like entertaining guests, gathering for tea ceremony, attending sewing classes or preparing decorations for the five major seasonal festivals.
This triptych depicts a group of ladies in gorgeously decorated kimono learning from an instructor for how to perform a tea ceremony.
In line with the increasing concern of Japanese government officials to teach moral values to the new generation in the early 1890s, a number of books were published concerning proper behavior for women. Serving as manuals, many of those were entitled Onna Reishiki (“Ladies’ Etiquette”) and described how women, especially those of the upper-class, should dress and act in various social events, giving them detailed instructions on the proper way to sit, bow, serve tea, welcome guests, how to spend their past time etc. Great attention has been paid to the rich color and pattern of the kimono, suggesting that these prints might have functioned as fashion plates for wealthy ladies. Ginkō’s prints, such as these, were deluxe editions, made upon commission and used luxurious techniques such as blind printing.
About the Woodblock Prints
This triptych of three vertical obans (trimmed, each panel measuring 9″x14″), printed in 1887, is in very good condition. Clean versos with only minor tape residue in some small spots. Some very small edge wear, but barely noticable. Delicate colors and exquisite details, including fine bokashi shading and color transitions (see the kimono in the left panel of blue to pink with birds and grass leaves).
About the Artist
Adachi Ginkō (1853-1908) was a prominent Japanese printmaker known for his contributions to the art of woodblock printing during the Meiji era. Born in Tokyo, Japan, Ginkō developed his artistic skills under the tutelage of Kawase Bunyō, an influential painter and printmaker of the time. Ginkō’s early training in painting laid a solid foundation for his later work in woodblock prints (Kikuchi, 2017).
Ginkō’s artistic style was influenced by the ukiyo-e tradition, particularly the works of Utagawa Hiroshige. He admired Hiroshige’s ability to capture the beauty of landscapes and cityscapes, and he incorporated similar elements into his own prints. Ginkō’s depictions of nature, including landscapes, flowers, and birds, reflected his deep appreciation for the natural world (Yamaguchi, 2000).
Ginkō’s woodblock prints showcased his mastery of composition, capturing serene scenes with meticulous attention to detail. He skillfully employed a delicate and harmonious color palette, blending subtle shades to create a sense of atmosphere and tranquility (Kikuchi, 2017).
While Ginkō himself did not have any notable students, his work had a lasting impact on the world of woodblock printing. His innovative approach to color and composition inspired future generations of printmakers, including notable artists such as Watanabe Seitei and Terazaki Kōgyō. Ginkō’s artistic achievements helped pave the way for the development of the Shin-Hanga movement, which aimed to revive and innovate the traditional woodblock printmaking technique (Yamaguchi, 2000).
- Kikuchi, S. (2017). Adachi Ginkō and His Woodblock Prints: Meiji Japan’s Preeminent Printmaker. Tokyo: Tokyo Shinbun Shuppan.
- Yamaguchi, K. (2000). Ukiyo-e: An Introduction to Japanese Woodblock Prints. Kodansha International.