This rare oban, taken from the series “Miscellaneous Sketches by Gekko” (月耕随筆) is entitled Ryu Shoten (龍昇天), translated as “Dragon Rising up to Heaven” or “Ascending Dragon”, and was produced in November 1897 by the publisher Matsuki Heikichi (松木平吉). The print depicts a dragon, shrouded in dark rain clouds, soaring into the sky, the majestic Mount Fuji is towering in the background, above the legendary creature. This print is rarely seen for sale or at auction.
The Woodblock Print
This oban-sized woodblock would be considered in very fine to excellent condition if the print had not been trimmed of its margins along the border line. It has instead been carefully tacked at the corners to a decorative piece of acid-free backing paper. Great color and detail, no discolorations or noticeable flaws within the print.
About the Artist
Ogata Gekkō (尾形月耕, 1859-1920) was a Japanese artist best known as a painter and a designer of ukiyo-e woodblock prints. He was self-taught in art, won numerous national and international prizes, and was one of the earliest Japanese artists to win an international audience.
Gekkō was self-taught in art and began by decorating porcelain and rickshaws, and designing flyers for the pleasure quarters. Around 1881 he took the surname Ogata at the insistence of a descendant of the painter Ogata Kōrin. He soon was designing prints and illustrating books and newspapers. In 1886 Gekkō produced the print series Gekkō Zuihitsu (月耕随筆, “Gekkō’s Random Sketches”). In 1888, he married an art student of his, Tai Kiku, his second marriage, and changed his family name to Tai. The First Sino-Japanese War was the subject of a number of triptychs he designed in 1894–95. From the 1890s onward Gekkō won a number of art prizes, both national and international, one of the earliest Japanese artists to win international attention.