Irises at Horikiri

One Print - Two Artists

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Note: When I wrote the following text, in 2004, I was only aware of a single print which was a collaboration between Takahashi Shôtei and Ito Sôzan. Since then, I have found 2 more prints, produced around the same time on which those artists collaborated. They are O-34 "Ferry crossing at Toyoshima" and O-37 "Tennoji Temple, Yanaka". Thanks to Mauro Novelli for noticing this discrepancy and letting me know about it. Someday, I'll get around to re-writing this page to feature all four of these collaborative designs. It's on my to-do list.

                        - Marc Kahn, July 6, 2016

This oban print, O-31 in the Shôtei catalog, is the only example of which I'm aware of two shin-hanga artists collaborating in the design for a single print. The kacho (bird and flower) composition in the foreground is the work of Ito Sôzan. The landscape in the background was designed by Takahashi Shôtei.

Shôtei and Sôzan were the first artists hired by Watanabe Shôzaburô to design prints for his shin-hanga ("new print") experiment, which started in 1907. The original production was mostly small format prints. This print, which has been tentatively dated as having been produced circa 1915, is probably one of the first oban ("full-sized") shin-hanga prints.

Both artist's seals appear on the print; Shôtei's at the bottom left; Sôzan's on the right side, a little higher. The Sôzan seal is hard to make out, so I have inserted a digitally enhanced copy of it here. The title, above the Shôtei seal reads Horikiri hana shobu or "Purple Iris at Horikiri". Horikiri is the name of a village.

To my knowledge, there are only two copies of this print extant. The one pictured in the Shôtei catalog belongs in the personal collection of Mr. Shimizu Hisao, who is a curator of the Ota City Folk Museum and also the author of a very interesting biography of Shôtei. It contains a large, round Watanabe seal within the image.

The print pictured above is one that I bought in an on-line auction in January, 2004. It's in only fair condition, being trimmed to the image, toned and faded. Also, it is missing the Watanabe seal.

The idea of two artists collaborating on a print, extremely rare in the shin-hanga era, is well precedented in ukiyo-e. For example, in the 18th century, Shun'ei and Shunchô collaborated regularly on group scenes, typically with Shun'ei drawing the men while Shunchô did the women. In the 19th century, landscape designs by Hiroshige (both I and II) were sometimes combined with figures rendered by Kunisada. The series "Restaurants of Edo" and "The Fifty-three Stations from Two Brushes" resulted from the collaboration of Hiroshige I and Kunisada. Additionally, masters and students would sometimes collaborate on a design ( click here for an example).

If anyone knows of any other examples of a shin-hanga collaboration between two artists, please let me know.

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