Saturday, July 01, 2017

New Yoshijiro Urushibara Catalog Raisonné

Collectors of British, French, and Japanese woodblock prints will be interested to learn of the recent publication of Yoshijiro Urushibara: A Japanese Printmaker In London - A Catalog Raisonné (Hotei Publishing 2017) by Hilary Chapman and Libby Horner.  As the title suggests, it is a catalog raisonné for this Japanese artist who spent most of his career living and working in London (and, to a lesser extent, Paris).  Urushibara's art name was Mokuchū (literally, "wood [boring] insect").


Before going further, I should disclose the fact that I brought certain print designs to the attention of the authors for inclusion in this catalog and helped proof an early draft of the catalog, and so I am not entirely objective.  Nonetheless, it will be apparent to anyone who has collected Urushibara's work that a catalog raisoneé is long overdue.  The authors were particularly fortunate that Urushibara's son, Ichiro Urushibara, was willing to share the details of his father's life, to provide access to the family archives, and to permit reproductions of his father's work.

 
Photograph of Yoshijiro Urushibara lifting the finished "Peonies 6" print from the block
Courtesy of David Bull
(from a catalogue published by W.J. Stacey, date unknown)

In addition to the catalog itself, the publication includes a biography of Urushibara by Libby Horner (the leading authority on Frank Brangwyn, Urushibara's most frequent and closest collaborator), a consideration of Urushibara's role in the development of color woodblock prints in the U.K. by noted art historian and print dealer Hilary Chapman, and a discussion of Urushibara's skill as a carver and printer by the artist Rebecca Salter.  Appendices provide summary biographies of Urushibara's artist-collaborators and other major personalities in Urushibara's life, a chronology of significant events in Urushibara's public and private lives, examples of his seals and signatures, indices of print titles, a list of museums possessing his work, a list of exhibitions where his work was shown, a bibliography, and a general index.

Poster design by Winifrid Harris Jones advertising demonstrations by
Urushibara in woodblock carving and printing (c. 1930s?)
Personal Collection
(gouache)

The photographs of the prints in the catalog of are very high quality, generally with only one to three images per page and, with a handful of exceptions, all are in color.  When multiple images appear on the same page, it is usually because the additional images illustrate color variants, watercolor studies, preparatory drawings, or keyblock prints for the same design.  To the extent such information exists, each catalog entry provides, inter alia,  the title, date, image size, edition size, and seal information for the print, information about related works or extant studies for the work, the names of museums that possess copies, an indication where the print is illustrated or discussed in the literature, and any known exhibition history.

 
The Fishmarket in Bruges (Market Place Bruges) (c. 1919) (cf. UB11)
Designed by Frank Brangwyn; carved and printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(proof with hand-coloring)

The catalog itself is logically divided into two parts.  First, it list roughly 100 autographic works, that is, original print designs by Urushibara himself.   This is further broken down into the subcategories of florals, creatures, and other subjects (mostly landscapes).
 
Roses 1 (Vase with Roses) (pre-1928) (cf. F37) by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(keyblock print)

Second, it lists over 130 of Urushibara's collaborative works.  These prints range from straightforward reproductions of the works of other artists (then-living or dead), to works printed by Urushibara that were designed and/or carved by other artists, to prints designed in close collaboration with other artists such that, even if based on another artist's painting or drawing, they were nonetheless re-worked into print designs that constituted original works of art in their own right.  Approximately two-thirds of these collaborative works were with Frank Brangwyn.  Other artists include Bô Yin Rȃ, Jules Chadel, George Clausen, John Sell Cotman, Katsushika Hokusai, Prosper-Alphonse Isaac, Iwai Takahito, Gu Kaizhi, Kurihara Chūji, Kuwagata Keisai (Kitao Masayoshi), Yoshio Markino (whose collaboration with Urushibara I have previously discussed elsewhere in this blog), James McBey, A. Servant, Taito, Tchao Tch'ang, Mitton Wolksy, and Andrew Kay Womrath.

Outskirts of a Flemish Town At Night (cf. UB74)
Designed by Charles Brangwyn; carved and printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(hand-colored keyblock print)

A few (usually minor) print images are regrettably missing from the catalogue, usually because a copy of catalogued print design could not be located or because available images were deemed inadequate for reproduction by the publisher.  I'd like to rectify some of those admissions by including some supplemental images below using the Chapman-Horner catalogue numbering system.

F21  Lilies 2 (Lilies with Vase) by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Courtesy of www.1stdibs.com
(colored woodblock print)

C20  Owl on Branch (Owl) (c. 1922) by Yoshijiro Urushibara
(colored woodblock print)

[C25]  Two cats (likely post-WWII) by Yoshijiro Urushibara
(colored woodblock print)

Note: This print is not in the Chapman-Horner catalog, so I have assigned it the next available number in the "Creatures" section.

 
L: OS18(2)  Landscape with fungi in the foreground by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)
 R: OS18(5)  Woman wearing a patterned shawl, with a man in front of a house
by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

UB1  Gaspar Sweetwaters (1911) (shown only in monochrome in catalog)
Designed by Frank Brangwyn; carved and printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

UB21  Amelia Levetus, Ex Libris (Moonlit Scene) (1921) (shown only in monochrome in catalog)
 Designed by Frank Brangwyn; carved and printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

UB62  Barking Mill (c. 1923) (shown only in lithographic form in catalog)
Designed by Frank Brangwyn; carved and printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)
 
 
 UB60a  Test print, apparently created for but not used in 
Leaves From The Sketchbooks of Frank Brangwyn (c. 1940)
Designed by Frank Brangwyn; carved and printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(woodblock print in sepia)

 
UB72  Mist at Lauragais (shown printed in black and grey outlines only in catalog)
Designed by Frank Brangwyn; carved and printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock prints, both with some additional hand-coloring)

Note: These appear to be proofs and the final print may never have been released in color.

UB76  Rabbits without Grass (1938 or earlier)
Designed by Frank Brangwyn; carved and printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
(woodblock print printed in black, white, and gray)

OA17 Invitation - Frog by Prosper-Alphonse Isaac and Yoshijiro Urushibara
(colored woodblock print)
 
 OA19  Les Amis De L'Art Japonais, 17 February 1914 (Snowy Waterway)
Designed and carved by Yoshijiro Urushibara; printed by Prosper-Alphonse Issac
 Courtesy of Ader Nordmann
(colored woodblock print)

Note:  The seal on this print appears on another print design that the Bibliothèque Nationale de France attributes to Urushibara.  It is not, however, a recognized seal for Urushibara.

OA41  Kannon (after an unknown artist)
Carved by Prosper-Alphonse Isaac; printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Courtesy of Bridgeman Art Library
(monochrome woodblock print)

If anyone has images of the following Urushibara woodblock prints, please let me know and I will add them to this article:

F43 Tulips 2 (No box)
OS6 Femme au Tub
OS9 La Toilette
OA5 Aubergine (with Jules Chadel)

It should be noted that the book only catalogues Urushibara's woodblock prints and does not cover other types of his prints.  For example, one or more of Urushibara's Stonehenge prints were allegedly issued in lithographic form.  Urushibara is also known to have produced at least one etching:

[Flowers in Vase with Jar] (1920s?) by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(etching)

Finally, in my prior post about Dinner Invitation Prints for the Société des Amis de l'Art Japonais, I discussed several prints with which Urushibara was involved, including this 1913 print which the catalog raisonné includes in its "Other Subject" section of Urushibara's autographic works:

OS10 Les Amis De L'Art Japonais (Junk) (Boat in a Snowy Landscape) (1913)
Carved and printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
(color woodblock print)

This print was made to be purchased with contributions following a dinner attended by members of Les Amis de l'Art Japonais.  The eagle eye of Katherine Martin, Director of the Scholten Japanese Art in New York City, however, has identified this Urushibara print as being a recarved version of an earlier print by Takahashi Shôtei.  Marc Khan, who runs a website devoted to Shôtei, believes this to be the very first Shôtei print published by Watanabe Shôzaburô.

Boat in Snow on River (1907) by Takahashi Shôtei
Courtesy of Scholten Japanese Prints
(color woodblock print)

Why Urushibara decided to carve his own version of what was then an essentially contemporaneous Japanese woodblock print, as opposed to some classic ukiyo-e design, for Les Amis de l'Art Japonais members is unknown.  Urushibara's copy is slightly longer, but with a little less sky above and a little more water below the boat.  In light of this new information, while the OS10 print is one that should be included in the catalog, it more properly belongs in the "Urushibara and Other Artists" subsection of  Urushibara's collaborative works.

Church of St. Nicholas, Dixmuden (pre-1918) (cf. UB67) 
Designed by Frank Brangwyn; carved and printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(keyblock print)

 
Church of St. Nicholas, Dixmuden (pre-1918) (cf. UB67) 
Designed by Frank Brangwyn; carved and printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(woodblock print printed in monochrome)

 
Church of St. Nicholas, Dixmuden (pre-1918) (UB67) 
Designed by Frank Brangwyn; carved and printed by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

The prints, paintings, and proofs that I have used to illustrate this article are, for the most part, very minor works within the Urushibara canon and do not necessarily show off either his artistry or his technical skill to the best advantage.  Urushibara's best work, such as "Loving Couple at the Jan Van Eyckplein, Bruges" or "Venice, Golden Morning" (both with Frank Brangwyn), "London, Embankment" (with Yoshio Markino), or his own prints of Venice and Stonehenge are as strong and as evocative as any British woodblock prints produced in England in the teens and twenties.  If I have one major gripe about Chapman and Horner's catalogue, it is that, by raising Urushibara's profile among print collections, it undoubtedly will both increase the public's demand for Urushibara's work and the concomitant prices for his prints.  But isn't that always the case?

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