Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sadayakko Through Artists’ Eyes - Part 3: The Third Paris Trip and Later Years in Japan

Despite her international success, it still was not possible for Sadayakko to act in real kabuki plays in Japan.  So, in 1902, she retreats to the shadows behind her husband.  Her husband Otojiro, dogged by ill-health even since having his appendix removed, starts work on project to reform Japanese theatre.  He intends to produce Western plays with a Japanese sensibility that would make them palatable for a Japanese audience.  Called “seigeki” or “true drama,” these productions will focus on the spoken word. 

 Sadayakko and Otojiro Kawakami (1903)

Kawakami’s first such production is a version of Shakespeare’s Othello with himself in the leading role.  Rehearsals started with matinee idol Asajiro Fujisawa as Desdemona, but Otojiro thought a Western play required a female Desdemona.  Accordingly, he begs Sada to do it as the grand finale of their European tour.  For this role, however, she needed to learn how to project; dialogue was largely incidental in her prior roles, which were driven primarily by expression, movement, and dance.  Othello opens on February 11, 1903 at the Meiji-za Theater in Tokyo and later tours in Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto.  Sadayakko would later say this was the true beginning of her acting career.  Next up was “The Mousetrap,” a Japanese reworking of Hamlet in modern dress (decades before modern dress Shakespeare was performed in the West).  Otojiro was Hamlet’s father and Yakko played Oriyé (Orphelia).

Sadayakko as Oriyé (1903)

The March 1903 issue of Figaro Illustré includes two illustrations by Pierre-Georges Jenniot of the Kawakami troupe performing in “The Geisha And The Knight” as part of special issue devoted to Jenniot.  Presumably Jenniot saw Sadayakko perform the role of the Geisha in Paris in the summer or fall of 1901 (or during the Paris leg of their 1900 tour).  I think it is fair to say that Jenniot depicts the actors in a rather racist manner, emphasizing mongoloid features, especially if one compares these images with the one that Georges Scott produced for L'Illustration (shown in Part 1).

Sada Yacco in “La Geisha et le Chevalier,”
Figaro Illustré, No. 156 (March 1903) by Pierre-Georges Jenniot
Personal Collection

Otojiro Kawakmai and Sada Yacco in the death of the “Geisha,”
Figaro Illustré, No. 156 (March 1903) by Pierre-Georges Jenniot
Personal Collection

By 1907, Otojiro’s health has forced him to retire from acting.   He nonetheless still plans to build Japan’s first truly modern Western-style theatre.  In July, a party of eight including the Kawakamis leaves for Paris in order to make a formal study of all aspects of Western theater.  Sadayakko and Otojiro stay at a villa that had been the home of André Gide and the Goncourt brothers.  She attends the Paris Conservatoire in order to hone her acting skills and studies Western techniques.  She had not intended to publicly perform on this trip but the actress Réjane lured her out of seclusion for two performances at her new theatre in January 1908.  After performing at the Japanese Embassy, she is persuaded to play a brief season at the Theatre Moderne for 2500 francs per show.  The Czech painter and printmaker Tavik F. Simon sketches her as she performs in a Japanese reworking of Chekhov’s “The Three Sisters” at the Theatre Moderne, later using one of those sketches as the basis for one of his paintings.  (The sketches come from a 1905-1908 sketchbook that I obtained from one of Simon's grandsons.

Sketch of Sadayakko performing in “Les Trois Soeurs
(The Three Sisters)” (February 8, 1908) by Tavik F. Simon
Personal Collection
(graphite on paper)

Sketch of Sadayakko performing in “Les Trois Soeurs
(The Three Sisters)” (February 8, 1908) by Tavik F. Simon
Personal Collection
(graphite on paper)

Sketch of Sadayakko performing in “Les Trois Soeurs
(The Three Sisters)” (February 8, 1908) by Tavik F. Simon
Personal Collection
(graphite on paper)

Sada Yacco, Paris (1908) by Tavik F. Simon
Personal Collection
(oil study on panel)

Sada Yacco, Paris (1908) by Tavik F. Simon
Courtesy of The Imaginary Web Museum,
(oil on canvas)

By May 1908, the group is back in Japan.  Otojiro plans the Imperial Theater (Teikoku-za) in Osaka, supported by Prince Ito, who had become resident-general in Korea.  In September, Yakko starts a school for Japanese actresses called the Imperial Actress Training Institute.  One of her students, Ritsuko Mori, will become the leading actress of her generation.  The Imperial Theater has its grand opening on February 15, 1910.  Their first show is a reworking of Jules Verne’s Around The World In Eighty Day with a cross-dressing Sadayakko play a Japanese explorer based on Phineas Fogg.  In 1911, Sadayakko undertakes Sara Bernhardt’s role of Marguerite in La Dame Aux Camélias.

Sadayakko (c. 1910s)

Otojiro dies on November 11, 1911.  His last wish was for Sada to carry on his work in the theatre.  Asajiro Fujisawa wants to start up the Kawakami all-star troupe and tour in Kawakami’s honor with Sadayakko as the star.  Initially she declines, but the actors insist.  Later in the year, the troupe adds Belasco’s Madame Butterfly to their repertoire which they perform in English.  In 1913 she becomes the face of Reio Cosmetics.  In 1914, she would play Oscar Wilde’s Salome at age 43.  However, she begins to get criticized for playing young women parts (and faces increasing competition from younger actresses for those parts).  

 Inoue Masao (?) as the Prophet John the Baptist and Sadayakko as Salome (1914)
in Engei Gahō, Vol. 6 (June 1, 1915)
Personal Collection
(three color lithograph illustration)

A couple of years earlier, Sadayakko became the mistress of an old flame, Momosuké Fukuzawa, a wealthy married industrialist and stock financier.  He would get richer still by building a hydroelectric dam in the Kiso Valley.  They would remain together until 1933.  In 1915, she plays Queen Artes, in a play called “Gunshin” (which could mean war hero or Mars, the God of War).  Natori Shunsen, who would soon become the most prolific of the shin hanga kabuki artists, depicts her in one of the earliest woodblock prints of his career.  Based on Shunsen’s print and an illustrated handbill for the play, my guess is that Queen Artes might be Artemisia, the warrior-queen of Halicarnassus.

Sadayakko as Queen Artes in Gunshin, 
Shin Nigao No. 4 (September 28, 1915) by Natori Shunsen
Personal Collection
(woodblock print)

Advertisement for Gunshin, September 6, 1915 (artist unknown)
(woodblock print?)

In September 1917, Sadayakko announces her retirement at age 46 and performs in a series of farewells based on Aida.   She gives up her stage name and is known thereafter simply as Sada Kawakami.  In addition to spending time alone with Momosuké and overseeing grand parties for Momosuké’s business associates and political guests, she starts up a spinning and weaving company called the Kawakami Silk Company.  The enterprise would sell silk sold under the brand names Yakko Meisen and Yakko Silk.  As a widow with no children, she want a heir to take care of her in her old age and to tend her grave.  In 1918 Sada adopts nineteen-year-old Hirozo Ino, a relative from Momosuké’s mother’s side of the family.  In 1920, thirteen-year old Tomiji Iwasaki joins Sada’s family.  Tomiji and Hirozo are second cousins and will later marry each other.  In December 1924, Sada opens the Kawakami Children’s Music and Drama School in Tokyo.

Momosuké Fukizawa and Sada Kawakami (c. late 1920s)

Momosuké retires from his companies in 1928, and Sada gives up teaching at the children’s school to take care of him.  Although they separate in 1933, she returns after his death in 1938 to plan his funeral in his wife’s absence (which, as Momosuké’s mistress, Sada is not permitted to attend).  Thereafter, she builds a temple by the Kiso River called Teishoji, Temple of Shining Chastity, that is consecrated on October 28, 1933.  It has a storehouse for her costumes, photographs, and momentos, and a place for her tomb.  During WWII, Sada retreats from Toyko to her small villa in the seaside spa resort of Atami.   Her Tokyo mansion becomes a casualty of Allied bombing.  Sada will die at her Atami villa on December 7, 1946 at age 75 of liver cancer and cancer of the throat and tongue.  Her death only receives a couple of lines in the newspaper, her past glories all but forgotten.

 Teishoji Temple

For more about the life and career of Sadayakko, I recommend Lesley Downer’s “Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha Who Bewitched the West” (Gotham Books 2003), the source of most of the biographical information in these series of posts.

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sadayakko Through Artists’ Eyes - Part 2: The Second World Tour

The Kawakami troupe arrives in London in early June 1901 and opens at the Criterion in Piccadilly on June 18th.  Georges Scott’s previous drawing from L’Illustration (see Part 1) reappears in the June edition of The Sphere to coincidence with their opening.  Max Beerbohm rates Sadayakko above both Bernhardt and Réjane.  The artist William Nicholson designs a woodblock print (later issued in lithographic form) of Sadayakko in "The Geisha and The Knight."  F.D. Walenn's drawings of her performance in that play would appear the following year in The Studio.
Sada Yacco, from Twelve Portraits (Second Series) (c. 1901-1902) by William Nicholson
Personal Collection
(chromolithograph after the original hand-colored woodcut)

Sada Yacco as Katsuragi in "The Geisha and The Knight,"
The Studio, Vol. XVI, No. 62 (April 1902) by F.D. Walenn
Personal Collection
(color reproduction of drawings)

The Kawakami troupe's season in Paris at the Théâtre de l’Athénée begins on June 16, 1901.  Their previous repertoire has been expanded to include The Merchant of Venice, The Shogun, and Kosan and Kinkoro (a Japanese version of La Dame aux Camélias).  Sadayakko starts a kimono craze and licenses the right to use “Yacco” as a brand name for perfume, skin cream, candy, and a Westernized kimono for the everyday woman.

Advertisement for Kimono Sada Yacco (c. 1901)
Loie Fuller asks a young Pablo Picasso to design a poster of Sadayakko, although it is never commercially issued.

"La Danseuse Sada Yacco” (1901) by Pablo Picasso
(preparatory drawing) 

"La Danseuse Sada Yacco” (1901) by Pablo Picasso
 Courtesy of Pieter C.W.M. Dreesman
(pastel for poster design)

“Sada Yacco” (1901) by Pablo Picasso
Courtesy of the Picasso Estate
(india ink and gouache)

Raymond Tournon designs posters of both Otojiro and Sadayakko.  Rupert Bunny would again paint Sadayakko, this time in her mad scene from “The Shogun.”  Although this painting is usually dated to Sadayakko’s 1907 Paris trip, the role depicted would suggest it was painted in 1901, since she is not known to have performed “The Shogun” on her return visit.

Otojiro Kawakami (1901) by Raymond Tournon
Courtesy of  the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
(lithographic poster)

Sada Yacco (c. 1901) by Raymond Tournon
 Courtesy of  the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
 (lithographic poster)

Le Shogun (scéne de la folie) (c. 1901) by Rupert Bunny
Courtesy of the University of Queensland Art Museum
(oil on canvas)

On November 10, 1901, the troupe sets off to Berlin by way of Holland.  They perform in Berlin without a break for more than a month.  Hirobumi Ito (Sadayakko's first geisha patron), now Prince Ito, having just finished his fourth stint as Prime Minister, is in Berlin to meet Kaiser Wilhelm II, and he meets Sadayakko at a reception held at the Japanese Legation.  (He also made a point of seeing her perform in Paris.)  She poises for portraits by Max Slevogt while in Berlin.  The portrait of Sadayakko with her stepson Raikichi is dated by Sadayakko herself.  It also contains a faint pencil sketch of the dancer in profile as a walking draped figure under the left Japanese brush characters.  Slevogt created the second portrait of Sadayakko around the same time.

Portrait der Tänzerin Sadayakko mit ihrem Ziehson Raikichi (Portrait of the 
Dancer Sadayakko with her foster son Raikichi) (December 20, 1901) by Max Slevogt
 (oil on canvas)

Sada Yakko (1901) by Max Slevogt
 Courtesy of the Stiftung Saarländischer Kulturbesitz
(oil on canvas)

Emil Orlik also meets Sadayakko in Berlin and draws her, calling her a “very talented Geisha.”  In 1901, Orlik produces a black and white soft-ground etching with roulette of a “Japanische Schauspielerin” [Japanese Actress] which some scholars believe is Sadayakko.  It was subsequently issued in color as the frontispiece to Orlik’s famous Aus Japon portfolio in 1904.  However, to my eyes, it depicts an onnagata (a male actor playing a female role).

Porträt der Schauspielerin Sadayakko (December 12, 1901) by Emil Orlik
 Courtesy of the Theatermuseum, Vienna
(charcoal and gouache on carton) 

Japanische Schauspielerin (1901) by Emil Orlik
(soft ground etching with roulette)

Japanische Schauspielerin (#48/50), frontispiece to Aus Japan (1904) by Emil Orlik
Personal Collection
(colored soft ground etching with roulette)

The Kawakimi troupe tours the rest of Germany until the end of January 1902.  The King of Saxonia sees them in Dresden.  King Otto of Bavaria sees them in Munich.  The troupe arrives in Vienna at the beginning of February, and they perform at the State Opera House before Emperor Franz Josef.  Gustav Klimt approaches Sadayakko and invites her to give a private performance for the members of the Vienna Succession but she is too tired to perform given her nightly schedule. 

In Prague, Orlik sees Sadayakko and Otojiro perform “The Geisha and The Knight” and “Kesa,” and writes an article called “The Japanese Theater and Sada Yacco” for the February 15, 1902 edition of Prager Tagblatt.  In Budapest, the troupe performs for Prince Ferdinand and Princess Marie, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter.  While there, Jantyik Mátyás paints Sadayakko’s portrait.

Szada Yakko (c. February 28, 1902) by Jantyik Mátyás
(unknown medium)

From Budapest, the troupe travels to Cracow and then to St. Petersburg, where Russian men would cover the ground with their dark overcoats for Sadayakko to walk over.  Otojiro and Sadauakko are invited to the Winter Palace and are presented to Czar Nicholas II.  After visiting Moscow, they travel to Italy by way of Germany.  The troupe was originally going on to Vladivostok on their way back to Japan, but they extended their contract with Fuller for another six months.

In Rome, Sadayakko makes the acquaintance of Hisako Oyama, the wife of the Japanese ambassador.  Giacomo Puccini had for some time been following the troupe’s progress with interest.  He was writing an opera based on David Belasco’s play Madame Butterfly and wanted to meet Sadayakko but arrives in Rome on March 16 and just misses her.  The troupe continues on to Naples, Florence, Livorno, Genoa, and Turin, arriving in Milan on April 25, 1902.  Puccini is finally able to Sadayakko perform in Milan.  He incorporates music that she played on the koto in “Kesa” into his opera Madama Butterfly, and fleshes out elements of Butterfly’s character based on her performance in “The Geisha and The Knight.”  He also decides to cut an entire act out of his opera because he admired the speed and compactness of the Kawakami troupe’s plays.

Next stop on the tour is Venice, where Sadayakko impresses the artist Paul Klee.  In May, the Kawakamis arrive in Barcelona, where Picasso renews his friendship with the couple.  Both are sketched by Ramon Casas, who also paints Sadayakko’s portrait. 

Otojiro Kawakmai (1902) by Ramon Casas
 Courtesy of the Institute del Teatre, Centre Documentació i Museu de les Arts Escèniques 
(charcoal drawing)

Sada Yacco (1902) by Ramon Casas
Courtesy of the Museu Nactional d'Art de Catalunya
(charcoal, sepia lead, and pastel on laid paper)

Sada Yacco (1902) by Ramon Casas
 Courtesy of the Museo del Modernismo de Barcelona
(oil on canvas)

In Portugal, Celso Hermínio draws her for Comércio do Porto Ilustrado.  Thereafter, they travel to Toulouse, Marseilles, Lyons, Antwerp, Brussels, and back to London.  A French journalist reported that the troupe earned a million francs on the tour.  They set sail for Japan on July 4th and arrive in Kobe on August 19, 1902.

Sada Yacco (1902), illustration for Comércio do Porto Ilustrado by Celso Hermínio 
(also reproduced in Parodia (1902) as "Sada Yacco em Lisboa"

For more about the life and career of Sadayakko, I recommend Lesley Downer’s “Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha Who Bewitched the West” (Gotham Books 2003), the source of most of the biographical information in this series of posts.

(To be continued) 

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sadayakko Through Artists’ Eyes - Part 1: The First World Tour

At the turn of the last century, when Japonisme was at its height, one woman became the toast of two continents.  She performed before heads of state, she inspired playwrights and musicians, and she was immortalized by many noted artists of the day.  Her name was Sadayakko (1871-1946).

She was born Sada Koyama, the daughter of a man from an impoverish samurai family.  After the death of her father, she is adopted at age seven by the owner of the Hamada geisha house in Tokyo.  She is trained to sing and play the koto, and she shows a particular aptitude for dance.  Unusual for the time, she is sent to a local Shinto priest to be taught to read and write.  At age 12, she makes her debut as an apprentice geisha.

 Photo Portrait of Yakko (date unknown)

Count Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first Prime Minister, contracted at great expense for the right to deflower Sada in 1886 when she was 15.  Yakko (which became her geisha name) would be Ito’s mistress for three years before he released her, although he would remain her friend and adviser for the rest of his life.  Yakko would thereafter number among her subsequent patrons and lovers a bank president, a sumo wrestling champion, and the kabuki actor who would become Utaemon V.  However, knowing that a geisha’s career was time-limited, she started to look for a suitable husband.

Yakko (date unknown)

That man would be Otojiro Kawakami, known as the Liberty Kid.  He was a Liberal party actor who performed in political, agitprop amateur plays.  He came to fame performing what was known as the Oppekepé song, a satirical number that attacked the government, the rich, those who embraced Western ways, etc.   Yakko saw him perform in the summer of 1891, and the pair began to have an affair, despite the fact that he was socially inferior to her other clients.  After a trip to Paris, Kawakami starts New Wave theatre in Japan, and in October 1893 he and Sada formally wed. 

Otojiro Kawakami performing “Oppekepé” at the 
Nakamura-za Theatre (June 20, 1891) by Tarobo Kokunimasa
(woodblock print)

In 1894, Kawakami starts to perform jingoistic plays about the Sino-Japanese War.  A number of woodblocks show depict Kawakami in scenes from such plays.  In 1896, he opens the Kawakami-za, one of Japan’s very first modern theatres designed on the French model with electric lighting.  Kawakami, however, was hopeless with money, and was constantly fending off creditors.  After a disastrous run for Parliament in 1898, he loses his theatre.  However, an opportunity arises the following year that would change the course of Sada’s life.

 Otojiro Kawakami [center] Performing the 
First Sino- Japanese War (1894) by Kochoro (Kunisada III) 
(woodblock print)

Yumindo Kushibiki, a Japanese émigré who made his fortune catering to the Japonisme craze, convinces Kawakami and his troupe to tour America.  Sada accompanies him, not as an actress but as a wife who will support him behind the scenes.  Despite the fact that she has never acted on stage before, she is surprised to find on their arrival in San Francisco in May 1899 that she has been advertised as a famous Japanese actress and one of the stars of the troupe by Kushibiki.  Being told that Americans would have no interest in their Sino-Japanese war plays, Kawakami quickly cobbles together a program of condensed kabuki scenes, culminating with Sada performing the dance from “Musume Dojoji (The Maiden at Dojoji Temple),” where a spurned maiden turns into a serpent and kills her lover.  She adopts “Sadayakko” as her stage name, a combination of her given name and her geisha name.  (I've used "Sadayakko" in this text, but followed foreign spellings when they appear in specific contexts.)

The U.S. tour, however, turns out to be underfunded, and a replacement for Kushibiki as manager absconds with their money without settling their rent for a theatre.  The troupe is thrown out of their hotel and forced to arrange their own bookings.  They play Seattle, Takoma, and Portland before heading for Chicago, where their money runs and they nearly starve to death before managing to secure a booking.  Thereafter, they barnstorm through the Great Lake states before arriving in Boston in time for the 1900 New Year’s celebration.  But the trip has taken its toll.  Two members of their company die in Boston, and Kawakami has a severe case of appendicitis.

 Sadayakko (New York City 1900),
reproduced in L'Illustration No. 3264 (Sept. 16, 1905)
Personal Collection
Note: The article in L'Illustration claims that it depicts Sadayakko as Tomoye Fujin
 (the Japanese Desdemona) in Kawakami's February 1903 production of Othello.

At the same time, Kawakami starts to develop a formula that would please Western audiences.  He takes great liberties with traditional kabuki plays, combining characters and plots.  Dialogue was minimal, since it would not be understood anyway.  Instead they concentrated on plots and actions that could be universally followed, such as romance, swordplay, revenge, madness, and death.  Their first success was called “The Geisha and The Knight,” a combination of “Sayaate (The Duel)” and “Dojoji.”  To get some sense of this mash-up, imagine, by way of analogy, a play that starts out like a Japanese version of Romeo and Juliet where the leads morph into Lord and Lady MacBeth in the second act.  After meeting Henry Irving and Ellen Terry who were performing “The Merchant of Venice” in Boston and who give them introductions to use in London, the Kawakami troupe begins to perform their own Japanese reworked version with Sadayakko as Portia.

Otojiro as Shylock and Sadayakko at Portia in The Merchant Of Venice (circa Summer 1903)

Thereafter, the Kawakamis are invited by the Japanese ambassador to perform in Washington, D.C. with an audience that included President McKinley and his wife.  They then proceed to New York City, where Sadayakko appears on the cover of Harper’s Bazar and takes instruction at the New York Actor’s School.  David Belasco, author of the play “Madam Butterfly” has his leading lady coached by Sadayakko on how to walk and talk like a geisha.  The troupe also performs their own Japanese version of the then-controversial play “Sapho.”

Harper’s Bazar (March 24, 1900)

The troupe sails to London, arriving in May 1900. They are welcomed by Arthur Diosy, vice-chairman of the Japan Society.  Sir Edward Arnold, the poet with a Japanese wife, takes them under his wing.  More and more, Sadayakko incorporates Western style acting into her performances.  While in London, the troupe performs at a party that includes the Prince of Wales and Lady Randolph Churchill.

On June 27, 1900, the troupe leaves London for Paris.  They are booked by the dancer/impresario Loie Fuller to perform at the 1900 Universal Exposition with Sadayakko billed above Otojiro.  They are the hit of the exposition, performing 2 or 3 times a day but leaving them with little time to sightsee or to socialize.  Rodin wanted to sculpt Sadayakko, but she was too busy.  Alfredo Müller designs a dramatic, kakemono-shaped poster of Sadayakko.

Sada Yacco (1900) by Alfredo Müller
Kyoto Institute of Technology
(lithographic poster)

The Kawakami troupe is invited to a garden party at the Elysée Palace hosted by President Émile Loubet where Sadayakko performs her dance from “Dojoji.”  Her dancing is an inspiration to a young Isadora Duncan and Ruth Saint Denis.  Andre Gide claims to have seen her perform six times.  Hearing her play the koto, Debussy decides to incorporate Japanese music into Le Mer.   Italian caricaturist Leonetto Cappiello depicts her as the maddened geisha for La Rire.  Georges Scott similarly draws her for L’Illustration.

Sada Yacco, L’Etoile Japonaise, La Rire #306 (September 1900) by Leonetto Cappiello
Personal Collection

"La Mort de la Geisha," L’Illustration No. 3002 (September 8, 1900) by Georges Scott
Personal Collection

At Fuller’s request, Otojiro is forced to add hara-kiri to his death scene in the play “Kesa, The Faithful Wife.”  Sadayakko then adds hara-kiri to the end of “The Geisha and The Knight,” and all three brothers commit hara-kiri in “The Soga Brothers.”  Unlike the squeamish American audiences, French audiences with their taste for bloody Grand Guignol theatre eat it up.  Australian painter Rupert Bunny, however, eschews the play’s violence and paints a very Whistlerian portrait of Sadayakko as Kesa.

Sada Yacco as Kesa (1900) by Rupert Bunny
Courtesy of Philip Bacon
(oil on canvas)

In early November, the troupe leaves for Japan, eventually arriving in Tokyo on January 19th after resting at Arima Spa.  They had signed a contract with Fuller for a second summer tour beginning June 16, 1901, but they were homesick and they needed to hire additional members and supplies for their expanding act.  (As luck would have it, Sadayakko was out of the country for most of Orlik’s time in Japan.  In late December 1900, however, Orlik received a card from Max Lehrs, the director of the Dresden Kupferstichskabinett, who had seen Sadayakko act and dance at the Paris Exposition in October.  There is a possibility that Sadayakko's and Orlik's paths crossed in Tokyo in late January or February 1901 during Orlik’s final weeks in Japan, but I have not found any concrete evidence on this point.) 

A L'Exposition: Kawakami et Sada-Yacco au Théatre de la Loie Fuller,
La Rire #310 (Oct. 13, 1900) by Charles Lucien Léandre
Personal Collection

On April 10, 1901, a troupe of 20 actors plus musicians, dressers, hairdressers, and Otojiro’s bastard son Raikichi leave for Europe.  A woodblock print by Utagawa Yoshiiku dated May 11, 1901 is issued after their departure, clearly modeled on the photo of Sadayakko on the cover of Le Théatre magazine that came out while she was in Paris.

Japanese Dramatic Kawakami and Sada Yacco (May 11, 1901) 
by Utagawa Yoshiiku
Personal Collection
(woodblock print)

Sadayakko as the Geisha in “La Geisha et le Chevalier” by P. Nadar
Le Théatre No. 44 (October - II 1900)
Personal Collection
(cliché [stereotype])

For more about the life and career of Sadayakko, I recommend Lesley Downer’s “Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha Who Bewitched the West” (Gotham Books 2003), the source of most of the biographical information in this post.

(To be continued)

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Sunday, September 06, 2015

The Bosch Reitz Experiment: Holy Grail #1

Sigisbert Chrétien (S.C.) Bosch Reitz (1860-1938) was a Dutch painter, museum curator, and an Oriental art scholar and collector.  Born into a wealthy Amsterdam family of art lovers, Bosch Reitz studied at the Amsterdamse Quellinusschool, at the Kunst Gewerbe Hoch Schule in Munich under Professor Barth, and then finished his studies at the Académie Julien in Paris in 1884.  His friends at the time were mostly the English pupils at the Académie (which therefore could have included Charles W. Bartlett).  Bosch Reitz would later win a gold medal from the Paris Salon in 1890 for one of his oil paintings.

Bosch Reitz Self-Portrait (c. 1902)
(oil on panel)

At some point during the 1890s, Bosch Reitz became a Japanophile and, in late December 1899, he left Europe on the Japanese ship “Sado Maru,” arriving in Japan sometime in the beginning of the new year.  Bosch Reitz would ultimately spend more than a year in Japan.  Japan’s picturesque landscapes, however, were of less interest to Bosch Reitz than its antique shops and museums.   His diaries from the trip survive and detail his various purchases.  One of his passions were ukiyo-e prints, especially by the Primitives.  During his trip he would also purchase prints by artists such as Hokusai, Harunobu, Utamaro, Kiyonaga, and Sharaku, and he was particularly fond of surimono prints by Hokkei.  But his collecting interests extended far beyond prints and included lacquer work (especially by Korin), embroideries, and ceramics.  While in Japan, Bosch Reitz also had an entire set of Japanese clothes tailor-made for himself.  By the end of his trip, Bosch Reitz had four crates of art and clothes to ship back to Europe.

Bosch Reitz Christmas Card, Kyoto (Nov. 19, 1900)

Bosch Reitz would briefly meet Ernest Fenollosa and his second wife Mary in Tokyo, but his most important personal encounter during his trip to Japan would be with the Austrian artist Emil Orlik.  The two would frequently travel and go out together; one of Bosch Reitz’s diary entries relates a trip that the pair took to a Japanese paper-maker.  Orlik would eventually teach Orlik the technique of carving and printing woodblock prints in the Japanese manner and, at the end of 1900, Bosch Reitz would produce his first (and only surviving) woodblock print, “Japanse Turin (Japanese Garden).”  Bosch Reitz would describe in detail in his diary not only what materials it required, what tools he used, and how they were employed, but also included explanations of printing techniques such as bokashi, embossing, burnishing, and the use of metallics which were not involved in his own print.  It is unclear if Bosch Reitz made any further print designs.  One Dutch reference I’ve tried to translate seems to suggests that he did but that they were stolen along with most of the paintings that Bosch Reitz did while in Japan shortly before he left the country.

Japanse Tuin [Japanese Garden] (1900)
(woodblock print)

Several years late, Bosch-Reitz would recycle his garden print for a 1907 meeting announcement for Les Amis de l'Art Japonais.  As indicated on the announcement, the impression of the print itself was one that Bosch-Reitz made when he was in Japan.

March 25, 1907 Meeting Announcement for Les Amis de l'Art Japonais
Courtesy of the Bibliothèque nationale de France
(woodblock print)

 Back in Europe, Bosch Reitz would continue to comprehensively study Asian art, especially Oriental ceramics in European museums.  The outbreak of WWI prevented him from accepting a cataloguing job at the Louvre, but in 1915 the trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City established a Department of Far Eastern Art and appointed Bosch Reitz as its curator.  He would remain at the Met until his retirement in 1927, at which point he returned to Holland and resumed his painting career.

Bosch Reitz Self-Portrait (c. 1924)
(oil on panel)

By my calculation, Bosch Reitz is the third Western artist to both visit Japan and make Japanese woodblock prints, following Emil Orlik and Helen Hyde.  Needless to say, his rare “Japanese Tuin” print is one of my holy grails for my own print collection, even though I’m not sure that any copies exist outside of the Bosch Reitz family’s collection.

I do, however, have something else in my collection with a Bosch Reitz connection.   In 2004, for my birthday, I bought the following print by Hashiguchi Goyō from the Scholten Gallery.  “Yabakei no Ame” was Goyō’s first self-published commercial print after his one-off experience with Watanabe Shozaburō in 1915.  Goyo designed prints for various books and magazines both before and after his collaboration with Watanabe, but they were smaller in size and scope and not specifically targeted to fine print collectors.  It is, in my opinion, Goyō’s finest landscape print by an artist primarily known for his female portraits, and was issued after he had spent several years studying ukiyo-e and overseeing with Kiyokata Kaburagi a twelve volume set of recarved ukiyo-e prints that were the finest reproductions of their time.  Goyō’s debt to Ando Hiroshige in this print is palpable.  It may not be entirely clear from this image, but the rain in the print is achieved with the use of silver mica.  (I also have a variant of this design in my collection printed in a more muted color scheme without the mica in the rain.)

Yabakei no Ame [Rain at Yabakei] (Mar. 1918) by Hashiguchi Goyō
Personal Collection
(woodblock print)

The illustrated print happens to be a rare, numbered life-time impression (#23).  The print also bears a second cartouche bearing the name of the carver (Takano Shichinosuke) and printer (Somekawa Somekawa).  Later (posthumous) printings by someone other than Somekawa Kanzo necessarily lack this cartouche.  This particular copy also contains a prior collector’s seal that employs a stylized “B” and “R” in a circle.  At first, I was unable to track this seal to any particular collector.  Thanks to Matti Forrer’s article in Andon on collectors’ seals, however, I was able to determine that it was very similar (though not identical) to Bosch-Reitz’s collector seal.  Then, quite by accident, looking through an old Hotei Japanese Prints catalog that turned out to contain several prints from Bosch Reitz’s collection, I found the identical collector’s seal, resolving the question of provenance once and for all.  (As it turns out, Chris Uhlenbeck, who runs Hotei, had sold my print to Rene Scholten.)

Bosch Reitz's Collector Seal

At that point in time, I was not particularly familiar with Bosch Reitz’s career but, after subsequent research, it makes a lot of sense.  The bulk of the Met’s Japanese prints were acquired during Bosch Reitz’s tenure, including those sold by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1918 and 1920.  Frank Lloyd Wright was a major Japanese art dealer in the early decades of the last century, using such sales to supplement his income from architectural commissions as well as to help finance his own ukiyo-e print purchases and extravagant lifestyle.  Goyō’s print was made in March 1918, and Wright was one of Goyō’s closed friends in the foreign community in Tokyo at that time.  (Wright also designed the poster displayed at the entrance to a commemorative exhibition of Goyō’s work in October 1921.)  It therefore seems to me extremely likely that Bosch Reitz acquired my print directly from Goyō via Frank Lloyd Wright sometime in the 1918-1920 time period.  While Bosch Reitz would never have purchased such a “contemporary” shin hanga print for the Met’s collection, it is clear that he recognized that it was an exceptional print in its own right that was worthy of inclusion in his own print collection.

Of course, all of this is merely supposition based on the provenance of the print.  Art historian and scholar Julia Meech has said that there is no evidence that Frank Lloyd Wright ever owned any prints by Goyō.  Bosch Reitz revisited Japan several times, including a trip circa 1925, and so he could have purchased the print there four years after Goyō’s death, or from some other dealer in the United States or Europe.  But I find it to be a persuasive theory all the same.  And it pleases me no end to know that there is a connection between Bosch Reitz and Goyō, Orlik, and possibly Bartlett, three of the artists whose work is among the most prevalent in my own art collection.

For further reading about Bosch Reitz, I recommend the following sources:

Ferdinandusse, Rinus and Blokland, Ann, Sigisbert Chrétien Bosch Reitz: Schilder en Wereldreiziger Rond 1900 (Six Art Promotion, Amsterdam 2002).

Boon, K.G., “A Dutch Artist in Japan,” The Fascinating World of the Japanese Artist (Society For Japanese Arts And Crafts, The Hague 1971), pp. 41-48.

Meech, Julia, Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art of Japan: The Architect’s Other Passion (Japan Society and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 2001).

Meech, J. and Weisberg, Julia, Japonisme Comes to America: The Japanese Impact on the Graphic Arts 1876-1925 (The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey 1990).

Meech-Pekarik, Julia, “Early Collectors of Japanese Prints and The Metropolitan Museum of Art,” Metropolitan Museum Journal 17 (1984), pp. 93-118.

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