Thursday, December 26, 2019

Chiura Obata's Miniature Prints

I'll get to Obata's miniature prints in a moment, but I wanted to alert readers to a worthwhile exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) in Washington, D.C. entitled "Chiura Obata: American Modern, which runs until May 25, 2020.

Grand Canyon (May 15, 1940) by Chiura Obata
Amber and Richard Sakai Collection
(watercolor on silk)

The Smithsonian show is the final stop of a five-museum tour, and the only venue east of the Rocky Mountains.  Guest curated by ShiPu Wang, professor of art history at the University of California, Merced, the exhibition was previously on display in Santa Barbara, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, and Okayama, Japan.  The D.C. presentation has been coordinated by Crawford Alexander Mann III, SAAM’s curator of prints and drawings, and additionally draws upon SAAM's own substantial holdings of Obata woodblock prints, paintings, and artifacts.

Lake Basin in the High Sierra (1930) by Chiura Obata
Proof circa state 99 of 107 impressions before the
title, the carver's name and printer's name were removed
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print).

 
Full Moon, Pasadena, California (1930) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

This is SAAM's second Chiura Obata (1885-1975) exhibition, having mounted a show devoted to Obata's Yosemite prints in 2008.   All of Obata's woodblock prints published by Takamizawa Print Works in 1930 (including a few non-Yosemite subjects) can be found here on the Hanga.com website.  Collectively, they are among the most interesting woodblock-printed landscapes of the early Showa period, remarkable not only for their power and beauty but also for demonstrating Obata's range as an artist.   Some are naturalistic, some are expressionistic, and one, Foggy Morning, Van Ness Avenue, is manga-like in its presentation.  In Full Moon, Pasadena, California, the Takamizawa carvers and printers have produced a work of art that, to the untrained eye, looks more like an original watercolor than a woodblock print.

 
Point Lobos, Monterey, California (1922) by Chiura Obata
Private Collection
(color ink on silk two-panel screen)

 
Maiden of Northern Japan (1931) by Chiura Obata
Crocker Art Museum
(mineral pigments on silk)

The current exhibition includes some the Yosemite prints featured in the prior exhibition (including the original watercolor and a complete set of progressive proofs for Evening at Carl Inn), but also surveys Obata's entire artistic career, from his childhood sketchbooks, to his illustration work, to his sumi ink and color paintings and screens.

 
 Landslide (1941)
Private Collection
(sumi and watercolor on paper)

 
 Talking Through the Wire Fence (July 1942) by Chiura Obata
Private Collection
(sumi on paper)

 
Dust Storm, Topaz (Mar. 13,1943) by Chiura Obata
Private Collection
(watercolor on paper)

In particular, the exhibition covers Obata's depictions of internment camp life at the Tanforan Assembly Center and the Topaz War Relocation Center during World War II, and his depictions of the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Japan.

 
Devastation (1945) by Chiura Obata
Private Collection
(watercolor on paper)

Obata's prints made at the Takamizawa studios are his best known prints, but they are not the only woodblock prints that he designed.  Lesser known are series of miniature prints that Obata had made in the 1950s and 1960s during a time when he was conducting goodwill tours of Japan for Americans.  Some were clearly intended to be used as invitation covers or holiday cards; others may have been intended as gifts.  As far as I know, these miniature prints have never been catalogued, and most are only known by purely descriptive titles.

 
Close up of the bird print on the World Landscape series 
portfolio cover (1930) by Chiura Obata
Published by Takamizawa Print Works
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

Obata's most famous miniature prints (or, at least, the most charming ones) belong to what are colloquially referred to as the Japanese Garden series published by tbe Uchida Art Co. Ltd.  Many of these prints are only known today in trial proof form, but the final version have printed titles on the prints (or on the backing cards upon which they may have been mounted).   Seven numbered designs are specifically known to exist but, based on the stylistically-related proof designs I have found, I suspect roughly a dozen different designs were made.

#2  The Moon light at Shiho-En (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

#3 Early Summer Breeze at Shiho En (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Private Collection
(colored woodblock print)

Daikan (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(watercolor)

#4 Daikan (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

Note: The card inscription says "Standing on the terrace of Daikan So, one glance takes in the great panoramic view of more than seventy miles from San Jose and the Peninsula in the south to Marin County in the north.  From the northwest a sea breeze softly move the fresh green willow leaves.  The pet Persian cat, Muffie, lazily occupies the sofa; one the wooden table stands a Japanese dwarf cypress tree; along the low wall potted begonias give red and golden lively colors which sparkle.  To the right an aged bronze lantern adds more beautiful harmony for a restful feeling."

 
#5 Shiho En (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Courtesy of Floating World Auctions
(colored woodblock print)

#6 Gate of Serenity (c. 1950s1960s) by Chiura Obata
Courtesy of Floating World Auctions
(colored woodblock print)

#7 Daikanso (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Courtesy of Floating World Auctions
(colored woodblock print)

[Deer in a Japanese Garden] (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

 
[Garden Scene with Footbridge and Stone Lanterns] (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

[Terrace View with Cherry Blossoms] (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

 
[Exterior of a Home] (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

 
[Living Room] (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(watercolor)

Note: Unlike the watercolor for Daikan, which is print-size), this watercolor is more than twice the size of the final print.

[Living Room] (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

Entering Daikan So (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Courtesy of Clars Auction Gallery
(colored woodblock print)

Although not part of the Japanese Garden series, there are a number of other prints that Uchida produced based on Obata designs:

[Leaping Salmon] Season's Greetings Kim And Masao Obata (c. 1950s/1960s) 
by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

[Rainbow Trout] Season's Greetings Kim & Masao Obata (c. 1950s/1960s) 
by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(monochrome woodblock print on textured gold-colored paper)

[Garden Scene] (circa 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

 [Dragon Ball] (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(woodblock print in black and grey)

Note:  This card was probably made for the Year of the Dragon, which would date the print to either 1952 or 1964. 

[Snow at Golden Pavilion] (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(woodblock print in black and grey)

 [Mt. Fuji] (c. 1964) by Chiura Obata
Private Collection
(woodblock print in black and grey)

 Note: This print was used for an invitation to a film showing of Japan brushwork demonstration and exhibition of original watercolors by Obata on July 28, 1964 at the Carmel Women's Club.

[Pine Tree on Cliff] (c. 1969) by Chiura Obata
Private Collection
(woodblock print printed n black and grey)

 Note: The greeting card by the Obatas is dated 1969.

Obata also produced a few miniature prints with other publishers.  The following print was used as the portfolio cover illustration for From The Sierra To The Sea, a portfolio of eleven paintings in watercolor and sumi  accompanied by printed translations from the artist's poetry, published in Berkeley, California by Archetype Press in an edition of 50 copies (of which only 25 copies were for sale).   The print was made on a hand press of Wilder and Ellen Bentley in 1937.

Yama yori umi ni (From The Mountains to the Sea) (1937) by Chiura Obata
Private Collection
(woodblock print printed in brown)

 
Yama yori umi ni (From The Mountains to the Sea) (2001) by Chiura Obata)
Personal Collection
(woodblock print printed in brown)

Note: The print found in From The Sierra To The Sea was reissued in 2001 as a commemorative broadside accompanying a poem by Gary Snyder to benefit the International Rivers Network on the occasion of the lecture The Poetry and Politics of Rivers by Julie Tsai featuring Gary Snyder at the Second Annual International River Network Conference in San Francisco (May 17, 2001).  It was designed and printed by Morning Glory Press in an edition of 100.

  
[View from Berkeley Hills]  (c. 1950s/1960s) by Chiura Obata
Private Collection
(unknown medium)

Note: I am including this print out of an abundance of caution.  It was commissioned by the City Council of the City of Berkeley.  It is probably an offset lithograph and not a woodblock print or stone lithograph.

It should also be noted that Obata made two miniature prints with the Takamizawa Studio in connection with the publication of his World Landscape print series.  One is a reduced size lithographic reproduction of his portrait of Madame Talia Savanieva.

Before Singing (Madame Talia Savanieva) (1930) by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(lithograph reproduction printed on silk and mounted on a shikishiban board)

Note: The back of the shikishiban board is inscribed "Tokyoa Tango Shunkumen Senden Taikai."

The other is a small woodblock print of a bird, used on the portfolio cover and individual print folders for the prints in the World Landscape series.  Minor color variations are known to exist.

  
World Landscape series print folder cover (1930)
by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(colored woodblock print)

World Landscape series print folder cover (1930)
by Chiura Obata
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
(colored woodblock print)

Finally, although they are not actually "miniature" prints, it is worth noting that Obata designed a number of large Chinese horse prints.
 
[Galloping Chinese Horse with head turned to face right] (c. 1950s/1960s)
by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(watercolor)
  
[Galloping Chinese Horse with head turned to face right] (c. 1950s/1960s)
by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(woodblock print printed in black and grey)

  
[Galloping Chinese Horse with head turned to face left] (c. 1950s/1960s) 
by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(watercolor)

 
[Galloping Chinese Horse with head turned to face left] (c. 1950s/1960s)
by Chiura Obata
Personal Collection
(woodblock print printed in black and grey)

The above two prints were published by Uchida.   However, Obata also made eight additional Chinese horse prints with the publisher Baba Nobuhiko, which were issued in numbered editions of 100.  To date, I have only located images of two of such horse prints:

[Standing Chinese Horse with head turned to face left] (c. 1950s?) 
by Chiura Obata
Private Collection
(woodblock print printed in black and grey)

[Galloping Chinese Horse facing left] (c. 1950s?)
by Chiura Obata
Private Collection
(woodblock print printed in black and grey)

If readers are aware of further miniature or non-canonical woodblock prints by Chiura Obata, please contact me at the address at the upper right of this page.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Charles W. Bartlett: The Uncatalogued Prints

I've previously posted about the woodblock prints and etchings omitted from Richard Miles' catalog "Elizabeth Keith: The Printed Works" (Pacific Asia Museum 1991).  A decade later, Miles, in collaboration with Jennifer Saville, produced a similar catalog called "A Printmaker in Paradise: The Art and Life of Charles W. Bartlett" in connection with an exhibition held at the Honolulu Academy of Arts (HAA) between November 15, 2001 and January 6, 2002. That publication drew upon the extensive Bartlett holdings at the HAA (now called the Honolulu Museum of Art or HMA), Bartlett family works owned by David Dolan and his sister Pamela Dolan Gordon (portions of which are now in my own collection), and material held by other museums and private collectors.


While the Miles and Saville catalog remains the seminal work on Bartlett's graphic work, the authors knew that it was incomplete.  For example, they included a list of titles of etchings that were referenced in Bartlett's ledgers and other archival material at page 169 of the catalog but whose whereabouts were unknown.  At least one of the prints in this list is a variant title of a print included in the catalog under a different name.  Certain others are titles of prints that appear to have been abandoned at the plate or proof stage, although some were subsequently re-worked and issued by Bartlett.

#51 The Primrose Window.  Brittany. (aka "Brittany Chapel, II") (c. 1908-1912)
Personal Collection
(etching with drypoint)

 Close-up of inscription for "The Primrose Window.  Brittany."

Note: There is a print title "Primrose Window" included in the list of prints whose whereabouts are unknown on page 169 of the Mile catalog.  The inscription on this etching makes clear that it is not a lost etching, but a variant title for "Brittany Chapel, II."

Brittany Woman Telling Her Beads 
(aka "The Rosary" or "Telling The Beads") (c. 1908)
Personal Collection
(etching marked "This copy reserved.")

Unfortunately, the majority of these "lost" or otherwise uncatalogued prints are still missing.  But some have surfaced in the interim, as have a few print whose titles and designs were completely unknown to Miles and Saville.  This post is an opportunity for me to share images of some of those "missing" prints.

 
Photograph of Charles W. Bartlett (c.1922-1925) by Alfred Gurrey
Personal Collection

Bartlet's etchings usually exist in at least two color states, uncolored (printed in black ink although sometimes brown or blue ink was used), and hand-colored with watercolor (in which case the colors sometimes vary from copy to copy).  Bartlett is also known to sometimes add additional detail by hand to the printed etching with ink or watercolor.  The Miles catalog is limited to one example of each print design, and I have not attempted to catalogue these hand-painted variants.  It is also possible that variant color states exist for some of the woodblock prints beyond those noted in Miles.  My focus, however, is on different states from those illustrated in Miles.

#57a By the Dike Side, Marken, Holland (1912)
Personal Collection
(etching with drypoint hand-colored with watercolor) 

Close-up of the inscription in the plate

Note: Early state signed in plate "CWB 1912" instead of "Bartlett."  This state might be what is denominated "Trekking Along The Dike" in the list of unaccounted for prints on page 169 of Miles.

#80a  Fruit Sellers Madura India. (c. 1923)  #51/75
Personal Collection
(etching with drypoint and engraving hand-colored with watercolor 

Note: This state essentially omits the carved background pillars and the stone tiles.

 
#85a The Sacred Ganges India (first proof)
Personal Collection
(etching hand-colored with watercolor)

Note: This state omits considerable background detail and any inscription in the plate.  The initials "CWB" and the title "The Sacred Ganges" were added in pencil on this copy.

#85b The Sacred Ganges India (second proof)
Personal Collection
(etching hand-colored with watercolor)

Note: The etching found in the Miles catalog appears to be another proof copy, whereas the final  state is illustrated below:

#85c The Sacred Ganges India (final state)
(etching hand-colored with watercolor)
 
 #100a New Year's Eve Japan. (c. 1923-1927) (marked "Proof" and #1/75)
Personal Collection
(etching hand-colored with watercolor)
 
Close-up of the plate inscription

Note: The version shown in Miles appears to be printed from a large plate that was subsequently cut down to shorten the extended shadows depicted at the bottom of the design.   The dimensions of the Miles version are 7-1/2 x 10-7/8 inches, whereas the dimensions of this copy are 6 x 10-7/8 inches.  Although numbered, the colored copy also says "Proof."  Eagle-eyed readers will note that the colored proof contains two inscriptions, "New Years Eve Japan CWB" and "New Year's Eve," the latter left over from the larger plate used to print the Miles version.

 
  #100b New Year's Eve Japan. (c. 1923-1927)
Personal Collection
(etching)

 Note:This copy lacks the remnants of the second (original) title in the plate, and thus appears to be the final state of the design.

#110a The Imperial City Wall. Peking (c. 1923-1927)
Personal Collection
(etching and engraving hand-colored with watercolor)

Note: This proof state lacks some of the figures and camels in the foreground.

 
#114s Bridge in Summer Palace, Peking, II (c. 1923-1927)
Personal Collection
(etching hand-colored with watercolor)

Note: This state might be what is denominated "Camelback Bridge" in the list of unaccounted for prints on page 169 of Miles.  It differs from "Bridge in Summer Palace, Peking, II" in the Miles catalog by depicting the landscape on the other side of the bridge in greater detail, especially under the center archway, and by more extensive work in the water.

  #136a The Divers Hawaii (c. 1923-1927)
Personal Collection
(etching)

 Close-up of the top diver
 
Close-up of the bottom diver

Note: As can be seen, Bartlett's original composition featured two divers and no clouds, although the diver at the bottom was later dropped.  However, even the top diver underwent further revisions that required a new plate to be etched, as the angle of the diver's head and the placement of the man's arms are different in revised print.

 
[The Letter - Dutch Interior] #12/75
Personal Collection
(etching with hand-coloring)

  [Peasants Coming in From the Field] (c. 1908-1912) #24
Personal Collection
(aquatint)

Close-up of the publisher's seal

Close-up of the printer's signature

Note: This print might be what is denominated "Coming From Work" in the list of unaccounted for prints on page 169 of Miles.  Unlike most of Bartlett's intaglio prints which were self-published, this print published by an unknown publisher in Brussels.  Under Bartlett's signature at the bottom left, there is an embossed oval that reads "EPR D'Artiste Bruxelles" surrounding illegible initials that appear to read something  like "B&Co."   The printer's name signed at the lower right appears to read something like "Leoy Bartholomey [Barthelemey?]."

The 29th of May (1891)
(etching by James Dobie; published by J.S Virtue
& Co. Limited in The Art Journal, Vol. 53 (1891))

Note: Dobie's etching is based on a 1888 painting that Bartlett exhibited at the London Royal Academy.  The models for the two central puritans were Bartlett himself and his brother Joseph.

Outskirts of Peking (c. 1923-1927) #5/75
Personal Collection
(etching with drypoint)

Note: This print might be what is denominated either Tartar Wall and Moat, Peking. I or II in the list of unaccounted for prints on page 169 of Miles.

 
[Japanese Boy Standing in Open Robe] (c. 1923-1927)
(etching)

Note:  The HMA has the original copper plate for this etching.
Unless otherwise indicated, the following is a list of the remaining titles/descriptions of etchings for which impressions are as yet still unknown.  Titles provided inside brackets are descriptive ones.  Entries marked with an asterisk denote that woodblocks or copperplates for the designs are held by the HMA or in private collections.

*[Asian Man Carrying yoke Among Tall Trees] (c. 1923-1927)
*[Asian Mother and Boy Seated on Steps] (c. 1923-1927)
L'Aveugle (The Blind) (c. 1908-1912)
*[Boat on Dal Lake, II] (c. 1923-1927)
*[Brittany Chapel, III: Two Women Praying at Altar] (c. 1908-1912)
Brittany Fair (c. 1908-1912)
*[Camelback Bridge] (possibly also called Bridge in Hangchow or Moonbridg at Hangchow) (c. 1923-1927)
Caravan on Gobi Desert (c. 1923-1927) (possibly the same etching as "Near The Khyber Pass," "Near The Great Wall, I," or "Near The Great Wall, II"
Coming From Work (possibly the same etching as "Returning From Work, Holland," "Going To Market, Java" or "Returning From Work, Java"
Dike Cleaners (c. 1908-1912) (possibly the same etching as "Dike Menders, Volendam"
*[Dutch Interior with Mother Tending to Child in Cradle] (c. 1923-1927)
*[Dutch Interior with Woman Rocking a Cradle] (c. 1908-1912)
*[Dutch Mother and Child Seated at a Table] (c. 1908-1912)
*[Dutch Mother Seated with Child Holding a Rosary in Lap] (c. 1908-1912)
*[Dutch Mother with Child Seated in Lap] (c. 1923-1927)
*[Edinburgh from Dean Bridge, II] (c. 1908-1912)
*[The Grandmother, Holland, II] (c. 1923-1927)
*[Hawaiian Woman Drinking from Coconut] (c. 1923-1927)
Labour
*[Large Junk and Reflection[ (c. 1923-1927)
*[Man Standing in Floating Canoe #1] (c.1919) (woodblock print similar to Miles #138 ("Hawaii")
*[Man Standing in Floating Canoe #2] (c. 1919) (woodblock print similar to Miles #138 ("Hawaii")
*[Man Standing in Floating Canoe #3] (c. 1919 ) (woodblock print similar to Miles #138 ("Hawaii")
*[Man Standing in Floating Canoe: Palm Foliage and Water] (c. 1919) (woodblock print similar to Miles #138 ("Hawaii")
*[Man Standing in Floating Canoe: Sky Above Clouds on Horizon] (c. 1919) (woodblock print similar to Miles #138 ("Hawaii")
The Mill (c. 1908-1912) (possibly the same etching as "Windmills, Holland" or "The Windmill, Holland"
Mother and Child in Meadow (c. 1908-1912) (possibly the same etching as "Xmas Greetings, 1912")
Mother and Child at Window with Doll No. 1 (c. 1908-1912)
(Brittany) Mother + Child With A Doll (c. 1908-1912) (possibly the same etching as "Mother and Child, Volendam" or "Mother and Child at Window with Doll No. 1"
*[The Offering: Two Chinese Children] (c. 1923-1927)
Prayertime in Desert (c. 1908-1912) (possibly the same etching as "Near the Khyber Pass" or "Prayer on the Gobi Desert"
Returning From Work, Java (c. 1923-1927) (possibly the same etching as "Going To Market, Java"
Shrimp Boats, Zeeland (c. 1908-1912)
*[Standing Dutch Mother and Baby] (c. 1908-1912)
*[Tartar Wall and Moat, Peking. I] (c. 1923-1927)
*[Tartar Wall and Moat, Peking. II] (c. 1923-1927)
*[Tea Garden. Japan., II] (c. 1927) (etching similar to Miles #101 ("Tea Garden. Japan. I")
Trekking Along the Dike (c. 1908-1912) (possibly the same etching as "By the Dike Side, Marken, Holland"
*[Two Cows Grazing by Trees} (c. 1908-1912)
*[Unfinished Profile Portrait of European Woman] (c. 1927-1927)
The Volendamer (c. 1908-1912)
Woman with Cattle and Child (c. 1908-1912) (possibly the same etching as "Mother and Child in Meadow")

Photograph of Charles W. Bartlett (c.1922-1925) by Alfred Gurrey
Personal Collection

If anyone has a print which they believes corresponds to one of these titles, or any other uncatalogued Bartlett print, please contact me so I can update this post.

 If a comment box does not appear below, click on this link instead: http://easternimp.blogspot.com/2019/05/charles-w-bartlett-uncatalogued-prints.html