Keisai Eisen – River Boat in Rain (after Shoda Koho)

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MLS2021213

Additional information

Artist

Eisen, Keisai

Condition

(A) Very Fine Condition

Date

1910s-1930s

Movement

Shin-hanga

Publisher

Shima Art Company

Size

Oban (10"x15")

Subjects

Boats, Bridge, People, Rain, River / Lake / Ocean

This woodblock print was printed in the 1930s by the Shima Art Company:

Shima Art Company spread its business not only dealing original and duplicated ukiyo-e, but also dealing shin-hanga prints which newly came out at that time. They dealt entire runs of shin-hanga prints from publishers such as Watanabe, Hasegawa, and Kawaguchi of Tokyo. Moreover, the Maruyama-Shijo school’s kacho-e prints were bought in from Kyoto (maybe from Unsodo). Their efforts helped to make shin-hanga prints become popular in USA.

However, when the supply from the publishers was inadequate, Shima committed to publish shin-hanga prints having their own seal imprinted and sold at lower prices. At least some of these prints were manufactured at Daikokuya of Tokyo. Shinnosuke Koizumi, who took over Daikokuya from the Matsuki family, collaborated with Shima, and they selected designs that would appeal to American taste. Another manufacturer of Shima’s prints was the Daimaru Book Company, in Osaka.

Excerpt taken from Shotei.com

Shoda Koho - Bridge in Rainy Season

Shoda Koho – Bridge in Rainy Season

What’s interesting about this piece is that we have a very similar piece signed by Shoda Koho pictured here called “Bridge in Rainy Season” published by Nishinomiya. Details have been changed, such as the shape of the boat, the woman in the boat, the tree and house on the shore, etc, but I think we can all agree that they began as the same piece and then someone changed it “enough” to consider it a new piece. It couldn’t have been Keisai Eisen (the artist signature) because he died in 1848, and looking at his work, it’s not nearly the same (he mostly dealt in bijin-ga and shunga).

Looking at his attributed work published by Shima Art Company, we can see that his piece “Two Boats in the Sunset” looks identical to Arai Yoshimune’s Evening Glow at Night, and his piece “Sail Boats and Mt. Fuji” looks like a piece by Shoda Koho.

Warabi Station: The Toda River Crossing (Eisen) (Warabi no eki, Todagawa no watashiba)

Warabi Station: The Toda River Crossing (Eisen)
(Warabi no eki, Todagawa no watashiba)

So is “Keisai Eisen” a penname for Shima’s own line of prints by Hasegawa’s artists when they weren’t able to get enough production from the original publisher? And in being salesmen, attaching the name of a famous Japanese ukiyo-e master to the print?

That would seem to be the case, even though it’s hard to imagine the original suppliers being ok with this behavior.

To be fair, Eisen did do landscapes, an example being “Warabi Station: The Toda River Crossing” from The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō Road created in collaboration with Hiroshige, but I think it’s fair to say that the style and execution differs significantly.

The Woodblock Print

This woodblock print is in very good condition. Printed on slightly stiffer paper with a slight brown tone (not due to toning, but the original paper color), it has rich, saturated color with a very tight registry. Very slight discoloration in the margins from where it was behind the original Shima Art Company matting/folio which was not acid free. Clean verso with a “Made in Japan” stamp.

About the Artist

Keisai Eisen (渓斎 英泉, 1790–1848) was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist who specialized in bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women). His best works, including his ōkubi-e (“large head pictures”), are considered to be masterpieces of the Bunsei Era (1818–1830).

Eisen was born in Edo into the Ikeda family and the son of a noted calligrapher. He apprenticed to Kanō Hakkeisai and took the name Keisai, later studying under Kikugawa Eizan. His early works reflected the influence of his mentor, but then he quickly developed his own style.

He produced a number of surimono (prints that were privately issued), shunga (erotic prints), and landscapes, including The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kiso Kaidō, which he started and which was completed by Hiroshige. Eisen is most renowned for his bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women) which portrayed the subjects as more worldly than those depicted by earlier artists, replacing their grace and elegance with a less studied sensuality.