August 1, 2014

Japanese Woodblock Print: Blossoms on Asuka Hill by Keisai Eisen 渓斎 英泉

Normally I refrain from purchasing woodblock prints via eBay, for many reasons, but, after successfully selling some of my items on eBay and having some extra cash in my PayPal account, I decided to browse around, which I did for several hours each day over the past couple of weeks, looking at thousands of different pieces of Asian art, etc, and that's when I found this original Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock print by Keisai Eisen 渓斎 英泉 , although no information whatsoever was contained in the listing.

Fortunately for me the seller had no clue whatsoever anything about the work, who the artist was, its age and so on, and even more fortunate for me was the fact that his photos were poor, and that the piece was being sold FRAMED, with no photos of the back of the print and so on, so, without any competition to bid against like what occurs when bidding on woodblock prints from professional and knowledgeable woodblock print dealers, I scored this print for $25 with shipping.   Although it was being sold as framed and had no information on the work, etc, I decided to take a risk on it, because my instinct told me that it's an original Edo period nishiki-e ukiyo-e woodblock print in the bijinga genre, and I am happy that I was correct in that assumption.

The print is Blossoms on Asuka Hill (Asukayama no hana), from the series Matches for the Cherry Blossoms at Famous Places (Mitate meisho sakura tsukushi), by Keisai Eisen 渓斎 英泉 (1790–1848), Published in Edo period Japan, 1830, publisher seal Maruya Jinpachi (Marujin, Enjudô).  The aratame, I believe says Kaiin: Kyoku 改印: 極

Blossoms on Asuka Hill (Asukayama no hana), from the series Matches for the Cherry Blossoms at Famous Places (Mitate meisho sakura tsukushi), by Keisai Eisen 渓斎 英泉 (1790–1848), Published in Edo period Japan, 1830, publisher seal Maruya Jinpachi (Marujin, Enjudô)

The print shows signs of age, but overall is in pretty good shape for a 184 year old print.  The back has somebody's notation marked in red pencil 11818 Gela, possibly a collection reference # or other form of ownership marking.   There is also another notation written in light and faded pencil that I can not make out or read.   The paper itself shows some light foxing, acid burn, etc as well as a small hole, most likely due to improper framing, care & display, otherwise it's in very good condition.    The print was in a frame for so long that the backing of the frame shows lines of the print and although I know absolutely nothing whatsoever about antique picture frames, my assumption is that it's an original frame from Edo period Japan.

Blossoms on Asuka Hill (Asukayama no hana), from the series Matches for the Cherry Blossoms at Famous Places (Mitate meisho sakura tsukushi), by Keisai Eisen 渓斎 英泉 (1790–1848), Published in Edo period Japan, 1830, publisher seal Maruya Jinpachi (Marujin, Enjudô)Blossoms on Asuka Hill (Asukayama no hana), from the series Matches for the Cherry Blossoms at Famous Places (Mitate meisho sakura tsukushi), by Keisai Eisen 渓斎 英泉 (1790–1848), Published in Edo period Japan, 1830, publisher seal Maruya Jinpachi (Marujin, Enjudô)

Blossoms on Asuka Hill (Asukayama no hana), from the series Matches for the Cherry Blossoms at Famous Places (Mitate meisho sakura tsukushi), by Keisai Eisen 渓斎 英泉 (1790–1848), Published in Edo period Japan, 1830, publisher seal Maruya Jinpachi (Marujin, Enjudô)Blossoms on Asuka Hill (Asukayama no hana), from the series Matches for the Cherry Blossoms at Famous Places (Mitate meisho sakura tsukushi), by Keisai Eisen 渓斎 英泉 (1790–1848), Published in Edo period Japan, 1830, publisher seal Maruya Jinpachi (Marujin, Enjudô)

Blossoms on Asuka Hill (Asukayama no hana), from the series Matches for the Cherry Blossoms at Famous Places (Mitate meisho sakura tsukushi), by Keisai Eisen 渓斎 英泉 (1790–1848), Published in Edo period Japan, 1830, publisher seal Maruya Jinpachi (Marujin, Enjudô)


















Keisai Eisen (渓斎 英泉, 1790 – 1848) was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist who specialized in bijinga (pictures of beautiful women). His best works, including his ōkubi-e ("large head pictures"), are considered to be masterpieces of the "decadent" Bunsei Era (1818–1830). He was also known as Ikeda Eisen, and wrote under the name of Ippitsuan.

Eisen was born in Edo into the Ikeda family, the son of a noted calligrapher. He was apprenticed to Kanō Hakkeisai, from whom he took the name Keisai, and after the death of his father he studied under Kikugawa Eizan. His initial works reflected the influence of his mentor, but he soon developed his own style.

He produced a number of surimono (prints that were privately issued), erotic prints, and landscapes, including The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kiso Kaidō, which he started and which was completed by Hiroshige. However, his most famous works are the bijin-e (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. He produced many portraits and full-length studies depicting the fashions of the time.

In addition to producing a prolific number of prints, he was a writer, producing biographies of the Forty-seven Ronin and several books, including a continuation of the Ukiyo-e Ruiko (History of Prints of the Floating World), a book which documented the lives of the ukiyo-e artists. His supplement is known as "Notes of a Nameless Old Man." He describes himself as a dissolute hard-drinker and claims to have been the owner of a brothel in Nezu in the 1830s which had burned down.

pp28 est 200-500

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