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Yoshikawa Kanpô (吉川観方)

Cherry Blossoms at Night in Maruyama Park (Maruyama no yozakura: 円山の夜桜) inscribed in right margin
No artist seal
Heian Satô Shô han (Satô Shôtarô, Kyoto) at middle left below artist signature; and another (Satô ko) in the lower left corner
1925 (Taishô Jûyonen haru)
(H x W)
Dai-ôban nishiki-e
29.0 x 43.0 cm
Excellent overall condition, never backed
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: YKP02 


Yoshikawa Kanpô (吉川観方; given name Kenjirô), 1894-1979, was born in Kyoto made his name as a Nihonga-style painter and writer, as well as a stage designer and advisor to the Shôchiku kabuki theatrical company in Kyoto. He studied Nihonga painting with Nishibori Tôsui (dates unknown) beginning in 1901 and later with Takeuchi Seihô (1864-1942). By the time he graduated with honors from the Kyoto Specialist School of Painting in 1918 and earned a graduate degree in 1920 from the Kyoto City Specialist School of Painting, he had already begun exhibiting with the Bunten in 1917. Evetually stopped exhibiting paintings, but continued to accept commissions while also briefly designing Shin Hanaga-style woodblock prints, among these a famous series of actor portraits published by Satô Shôtarô between 1922 and 1924, and apparently ceased making any more prints after 1925. He also produced landscapes (fûkeiga) and pictures of beautiful women (bijinga). Yoshikawa then concentrated on other pursuits, including playing the biwa (琵琶) and kokyû (胡弓). He authored several books on topics such as kabuki, Japanese dolls, and Japanese customs (including Faces in color prints, Contemporary actors on stage, Collected famous treasured dolls, Mirrors and designs, History of changes in sash design, and History of Japanese folk customs) and two illustrated volumes on ghosts (1925).

A favorite pasttime in Japan is flower viewing (hanami 花見). When daylight ends, there are many hanami sites throughout the country that offer the viewing of cherry blossoms at night (yozakura 夜桜). One famous site is Maruyama park (Maruyama Kôen 円山公園), Kyoto's oldest park, which today is a designated a "place of scenic beauty" (meishô 名勝) and features around 680 cherry trees, including an iconic "weeping cherry tree" (shidarezakura 枝垂桜 or 垂れ桜), as well as walkways, ponds, and bridges. The design of laying out paths around ponds (derived from Chinese models) is called a "strolling garden" (Kaiyûshikiteien 回遊式庭園). When in bloom in late March or early April, the great cherry tree is illuminated at night by bonfires and lanterns, drawing great crowds of onlookers.


Kanpô's print depicts the first-generation weeping cherry tree just a few years before it died at 220 years of age. More than a dozen wooden posts have been placed strategically under the massive boughs to support the aging giant. The cherry blossoms are illuminated by seven charcoal braziers as near-silhouetted figures walk and stand around the great tree, admiring its glowing beauty. Kanpô offers an exceptional visualization of light and color, and a lively rhythm in the placement and postures of the figures. The pink, red, and orange colorants invest the scene with a warmth that counteracts the black figures and sky on what is actually a rather chilly night. This is surely one of the more noteworthy urban landscapes in all of shin hanga (neo-ukiyo-e or "new prints" 新版画).

Impressions of this design are in many of the major museums around the world, including the Toledo Museum of Art (1939.419); Honolulu Museum of Art (no. 19288); Chazen Museum of Art (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1984.1044 Van Vleck Collection); and The Art Institute of Chicago (1954.886, Gift of Helen Gunsaulus, 1886-1954, Curator of Oriental Art and the Clarence Buckingham Print Collection)

Although not indicated on the print, the 1930 Toledo catalog (*) states that the carver of this design was Maeda [Kentarô] and the printer Ôiwa [Tokuzô].

References: Toledo Museum of Art, Fresh Impressions: Early Modern Japanese Prints, 2013, no. 336; * Toledo Museum of Art, A Special Exhibition of Modern Japanese Prints. 1930, no. 336.