This print, part of a series of twenty-five prints (plus a prolog/index print) picturing events in a typical year in an Edo theater, depicts the opening performance of the theater season.
Ōedo Shibai Nenjū Gyōji (Annual Events of the Edo Theater) drawn by Adachi Ginko, with two prints, Yomitate and Saruwaka Kyōgen, contributed by Torii Kiyosada (1844-1901) is a set of twenty-six prints (including an index/prologue page), depicting the manners and customs relating to Kabuki plays/theaters in the Saruwaka-chō, the Kabuki theater district which flourished until 1867, the first year of the Meiji Era. The Ritsumeikan Art Research Center posits that this series was issued in response to the public’s “remarkable nostalgia for [the] Edo period, the ‘Great Tokugawa Epoch’.”
At least three editions of this series were released. One edition, likely the first edition, contains the publisher’s name, Hasegawa Sumi, and associated publishing and printing information along the left margin (seen in this print). This first edition, with the publishing information, is often found bound into volumes, with the margins of the prints trimmed back. Another edition, likely a second edition, uses an embossed border around the entire image which is not present on the earlier edition. Generally these second edition prints have wider margins than the first edition. A third edition, which appears to be printed from new blocks, as differences in composition in each print can be seen, is a less elaborate printing than the earlier editions.
The Woodblock Print
This woodblock print is approximately an oban in size with lovely color, detail, intact margins and a clean verso. There are three discolorations; we can’t tell if they are stains or foxing, but seem to be in a line, along with a tiny hole in the piece. Otherwise, a lovely and rare first edition print by Adachi Ginko.
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.