Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Lost Etchings of Fritz Capelari: Holy Grail #4

Friedrich Capelari (1884-1950) has the notable distinction of being the first Western artist to work with the Japanese woodblock print publisher Watanabe Shôzaburô,  He was born in the small town of Bleiburg in a southern Austrian district called Carinthia, known for its fine wood carving.  His father, in fact, was engaged in painting and woodcarving for use in interior design.  Capelari studied decorative arts and graphics at a trade school in Graz, and then attended the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna from 1906 to 1910, winning an academic prize.

Umbrellas (Kasa) aka Girls Returning Home in the Rain (1915) by Friedrich Capelari
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(woodblock print)

While at the Academy of Fine Art, Capelari met a Japanese student who was briefly in attendance there, which planted the seed in his mind to one day visit Japan.  In 1911, he received a commission from the Austrian steamship company, the "Osterreichischer Lloyd," to paint a picture of Shanghai harbor, thereby providing the funds for his passage to Japan.   Capelari would spend the next several years in China, Korea, and Japan.  Like many Europeans, however, he eventually found himself stranded in the Far East due to the outbreak of World War I.

Nude Woman Holding a Black Cat (1915) by Friedrich Capelari
Courtesy of The Art of Japan
(woodblock print)

According to some sources, Capelari first met Watanabe in 1914 or else in the spring of 1915, when he rented a house in Akasaka, Tokyo.  Around this time, a Tokyo department store had an exhibition of Capelari's watercolor landscapes.  Watanabe attended the exhibition, and thought their composition and color contrast made them particularly suitable for conversion to the woodblock print medium.  Capelari's collaboration with Watanabe would led to some 15 woodblock prints being made between 1915 and 1920 (although all but one of which were made in the 1915-1916 time period when Watanabe's fledgling shin hanga print business was trying to get off the ground).

Pine Tree Near Yotsuya Mitsuke, Tokyo (1920) by Friedrich Capelari
Courtesy of The Art of Japan
(woodblock print)

Capelari left Japan in 1920 and, after a long sojourn spent in the Dutch Indies, Java, and Bali, returned to Europe in 1922.  He then spent ten years in The Netherlands, Britain, and Spain.   Capelari revisited Java and Japan in 1932, before settling down in Carinthia.  He became a member of the Carinthia Art Society and spent his later years creating wood sculpture and landscape paintings in oil.  Curiously, despite his contact with Watanabe and the fact that wood carving was "in his blood" so to speak, Capelari never seems to have been motivated to attempt to carve any of his own prints.


Ramiza [of Djokja, Java] (1921) by Friedrich Capelari
Courtesy of Zeeuws Veilinghuis
(colored drawing)

Capelari's woodblock prints, influenced by the likes of Hokusai and Harunobu, are well-documented and discussed in the literature, and I don't have anything particularly original to say about them at this time.   However, what has been overlooked before now is that Capelari also made etchings, at least one of which depicts a Japanese temple.

Kyoto (1915) by Friedrich Capelari
Courtesy of Galerie Magnet
(etching)

Aside from its appearance in a single gallery exhibition catalog, I have never seen any copies of this etching published or for sale anywhere.   And if Capelari made this etching, it is only logical to assume that he made at one or more other etchings detailing sites he visited while in the Far East, although the identities and whereabouts of such etchings are presently unknown.  Despite the title I've used for this post, I don't seriously believe that such Capelari etchings are truly "lost," only overlooked and neglected, and hopefully this post will lead to more copies coming out of the woodwork (to mix metaphors).  Readers who are aware of additional designs are encouraged to get in touch with me.

My thanks to Peter Pantzer, whose research is responsible for providing much of the biographical information about Capelari's life and career.

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Saturday, October 08, 2016

Japan Comes To Hawaii: Shirley Russell’s Botanical Prints

Shirley Ximena Hopper Russell (1886-1985), also known as Shirley Marie Russell, was born in Del Rey, California.  She studied art and modern language at Stanford University, graduating in 1907 (1908 according to some sources).  In 1909, she married Lawrence Russell, an engineer.  After the premature death of her husband in 1912, she began teaching in Palo Alto to support herself and her young son.  In 1921, Russell and her son visited Hawaii and she decided to take up permanent residence there in 1923.

Self-Portrait (c. 1920s?)
Courtesy of Cedar Street Galleries
(oil on canvas)

Russell studied under the Hawaiian marine artist Lionel Walden during the 1920s.  She also studied in New York, and traveled to Paris at least four times to further her art education, including an extended stay in the 1930s. In addition to a stint at the Académie Julian, her teachers in Paris included André Lhote.  Her 1927 trip to Paris resulted in one of her paintings beings exhibited there in the Spring Salon.

Moonlight, Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawaii (1934)
Courtesy of American Eagle Fine Art
(oil on canvas)

For twenty-three years Russell taught art at President William McKinley High School in Honolulu, where her students included Satoru Abe and John Chin Young.  She also taught art at the University of Hawaii and at the Honolulu Museum of Art, where she had three one-woman exhibitions of her paintings.  She continued to paint almost daily until her death in Honolulu in 1985 at age 98.  Although her work was generally representational (albeit with occasional cubist influences), she was a staunch supporter of abstract art and was part of a group of painters who helped bring Hawaiian art under the influence of the Modernist movement.

Banners for Boy's Day Against the Blue Sky (c. 1935)
Courtesy of the Honolulu Museum of Art
(oil on canvas)

In the mid-1930s, Russell traveled to the Far East, visiting at least Japan and China.  Russell's granddaughter believes that she traveled to the Far East a number of times, so this may not necessarily have been her first or only trip to Asia.  (At some point, either during the course of this trip or some other trip, she also exhibited some of her paintings in Tokyo.)  While in Tokyo, it appears that she made contact with the Japanese woodblock print publisher Watanabe Shôzaburô, who would publish a number of prints that she designed in the 1935-1936 time period.  Russell’s introduction to Watanabe came through Charles W. Bartlett, who had worked with Watanabe in the teens and twenties.  Since only 12 of Russell's approximately 16 woodblock prints are listed in one of Watanabe's notebooks, Russell may have hired Watanabe to create some additional prints on some subsequent visit to Tokyo, or she may have commissioned them long distance from Hawaii, as most of Bartlett's post-WWI prints had been.  In fact, since publisher information on Russell's prints is strangely absent on all copies of Russell's woodblock prints that I have seen, it's possible that she used a different publisher altogether for a minority of her prints.

 
White Anthurium, Hawaii
Courtesy of American Eagle Fine Art
(oil on canvas)

The majority of Russell’s woodblock prints are tropical botanicals, usually depicted in extreme close-up.  However, she did design a couple of Hawaiian landscapes as well as one California scene.   The prints below marked with an asterisk were published by Watanabe, although it is likely that he published one or more of the remaining design as well.  Light and dark background versions of many of Russell's woodblock print designs exist.  While I have illustrated below the variants known to me at this time, no doubt other variants are bound to turn up.  Some copies of Russell's prints are numbered, sometimes with an edition size which I have indicated if it is known to me.  When prints are numbered without an edition size, more often than not the numbers on her prints are frequently confused by dealers as representing the date of the print (e.g., "29" for 1929).

1.* Night Blooming Cereus (listed as "Night Blooming Celeus [sic] Flowers in Hawaii" in Watanabe's notebook)

 Courtesy of www.hanga.com

Courtesy of Michael D. Horikawa Fine Art
(color variant)

2.* White Ginger (listed descriptively as "Ginger (White) Flowers" in Watanabe's notebook) (edition of 50)


(color variant)

3.* Cup of Gold


Courtesy of www.hanga.com
(color variant)

4.* Palm Tree and Diamond Head (aka Hawaiian Moonlight)


5.* Bird of Paradise (edition of 100)

Courtesy of www.hanga.com

6.* Hibiscus

Courtesy of www.hanga.com

(color variant)

7.* Anthuriums (edition of 50)

 Courtesy of the Cedar Street Gallery

Courtesy of www.hanga.com
(color variant)

Original watercolor for the print "Anthuriums"
Courtesy of www.zoofence.com

8.* Shell Ginger (listed descriptively as "Pink Ginger" in Watanabe's notebook)

Courtesy of www.hanga.com

9.* Heliconia

Courtesy of www.hanga.com

Courtesy of the Cedar Street Galleries
(color variant)

10.*  Torch Ginger

Note:  While I have not been able to find an image of this print, Russell's watercolor of the same subject provides a suggestion of what it might look like.

Courtesy of Bonhams
(watercolor on paper)

11.* [White] Orchids

Courtesy of www.hanga.com

12.* Plumeria (edition of 50)

 Courtesy of www.zoofence.com

(color variant)

13. Once Upon A Time

Courtesy of www.hanga.com

14. Banana Flower (edition of 100)


Personal Collection
(color variant)

15. Carmel Mission (edition of 50)

Courtesy of the Annex Galleries

16. Hat Maker (edition of 100)

Courtesy of the Cedar Street Galleries

While Shirley Russell may have relied upon Watanabe's craftsmen to produce her woodblock prints, she occasionally produced other types of prints on her own.  I've included a few examples below.

The Hawaiian Maid (1922)
(etching)
 
Lauhala Weavers
Courtesy of Manu Antiques
(aquatint etching)

Net Throwers
(serigraph)

Lei Seller
Courtesy of the Robyn Buntin of Honolulu Gallery
(serigraph)

Note: One dealer has called another copy of this print a woodblock print.  I have not had an opportunity to inspect this print in person, but the serigraph designation appears quite plausible to me based on this image.

Russell's granddaughter tells me that Russell was quite proud of her woodblock prints, and that they seemed to have figured strongly in her progress as an artist.  Besides Europe and the Far East, she also traveled to Latin America and Turkey.  While traveling alone to remote parts of the globe was hardly the norm for a single woman in the first half of the 20th century, Russell, like a number of other female painter-printmakers profiled on this blog, seemed to relish the opportunity to visit foreign lands and the inspiration that such trips provided for their work.  Her granddaughter credits Russell's daring and feminist attitude as being a significant factor in her artistic wanderlust.

If anyone has any additional information about Shirley Russell's woodblock prints, please let me know.  My thanks to Nancy Russell Nadzo, who is an artist in her own right (www.nancynadzo.com), for graciously reviewing an advance draft of this post and providing me with insights on her grandmother's life.

Self-Portrait (c. 1940s-1950s?)
Courtesy of Cedar Street Galleries
(oil on canvas)

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