|Toyohara Chikanobu print from 10/1897
Young woman with a parasol and book
Series: Shin bijin (True Beauties: 真美人)
Woodblock print, ôban (370 x 250 mm)
Toyohara Chikanobu (豊原周延 1838–1912; also Yôshû Chikanobu 楊洲周延 and real name Hashimoto Naoyoshi 橋本直義) was the son of a low-ranking retainer named Hashimoto Naohiro (died 1879) of the Sakakibara family, whose ancestry included military governors or daimyô (大名) of the Takeda domain in Echigo Province. As was common for members of his class, Chikanobu had training in Kanô-school painting, but he preferred ukiyo-e. He might have begun his print studies with a disciple of Keisai Eisen (渓斎英泉 1790-1848). Regardless, he joined the studio of Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi (歌川國芳 1798-1861) around 1852. After Kuniyoshi's death, he studied with Utagawa Kunisada (歌川國貞 1786-1865), sometimes signing as Yôshû (楊洲). Finally, around 1862, Chikanobu had some instruction with Toyohara Kunichika (豊原國周 1835-1900), focusing on actor portraiture. Over the course of his career, Chikanobu produced woodblock prints, paintings, book illustrations, and artwork for newspapers.
Chikanobu was a print designer with a most unusual personal history, given that he was, like his father, also a retainer of the Sakakibara clan. As a Tokugawa loyalist, he fought for the shogunate as a member of an elite force called the Shôgitai (彰義隊, Battalion to Demonstrate Righteousness) in the Battle of Ueno (Ueno Sensô: 上野戦争) on July 4, 1868 and in the Battle of Hakodate (Hakodate Sensô: 函館戦争) from December 4, 1868 to June 27, 1869. Contemporary accounts indicate that he conducted himself bravely and honorably. Chikanobu was captured by the government forces, but spared from execution by Kirino Toshiaki (桐野利秋 1838-1877), a lieutenant for the leader of the Imperial forces, Saigô Takamori (西鄕隆盛 1828-1877), after Toshiaki was told that Chikanobu was a print artist. The Hakodate conflict was the last stage in the armed rebellion called the Boshin War (Boshin Sensô: 戊辰戦争) between shogunate and imperial armies. Following the Shôgitai's surrender, he was remanded along with others to the authorities in the Takada domain. In 1875, he traveled to Tokyo and found work as an illustrator for the Kaishin Shinbun (Progressive Newspaper 改進新聞). At the same time, he produced woodblock prints in the late ukiyo-e style.
Once established, Chikanobu created print designs on many themes, foremost among them bijinga (美人画 pictures of beautiful women) and sensô-e (戦争絵 pictures of war or warrior prints, musha-e, 武者絵). Other subjects included historical scenes, kabuki, famous places (meisho 名所絵), current events, portrayals of the emperor, and pasttimes of women. As a late master of bijinga, he produced numerous images and series of beauties in single sheets, diptychs, and triptychs. Among these was the series Shin bijin (True Beauties: 真美人), from which we have the print illustrated on the left. The blending of Western cultural artifacts (parasol, textbook, pink plaid skirt) with traditional Japanese dress (kimono, obi) forms part of the charm in pictures such as this portait of a female student of higher learning.
The subjects covered in Chikanobu's sixty or so series included various war triptychs depicting the Boshin War (Boshin sensô: 戊辰戦争 1868-69), the aforementioned Satsuma Rebellion (Seinan Sensô: 西南戦争 1877), the Jingo Incident Korea (Jingo Jihen: 壬午事変) in 1882, the Sino-Japanese War (Nisshin sensô: 日清戦争) in 1894–1895, and the Russo-Japanese War (Nichiro sensô: 日露戦争) in 1904-05, the last theme representing nearly the last of Chikanobu's works. There were as well several large series, such as the fifty-print Setsugekka (Snow, Moon, Flowers: 雪月花) published by Kobayashi Tetsujirô (小林鉄次郎 1848-93) featuring many topics, with nearly every sheet focused on women who were often drawn in a style that, it might be argued, provides a bridge between Edo-period bijinga of the Utagawa school and Meiji-period bijinga by artists such as Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (月岡芳年 1839-1892). Another group of fifty prints was issued by the same publisher in 1886, titled Azuma nishiki chûya kurabe (Eastern Brocades, Day and Night Compared: 東錦昼夜競) through which Chikanobu explored his (and his audience's) unwavering fascination with historical figures and warriors of great renown. There were also important series later in his career, such as Chiyoda no Ôoku (Chiyoda, Inner Palace: 千代田の大奥), with about 40 designs issued from 1894 to 1896, and Chiyoda no on-omote (Chiyoda, Outer Precincts of the Palace: 千代田の御表), with around 32 scenes published in 1897. Both sets of triptychs published by Fukuda Hatsujirô (福田初二郎).
Chikanobu apparently retired from printmaking around 1906. Six years later, he died of stomach cancer on September 29, 1912.
Note: There was an earlier Toyohara Chikanobu (popular name Toriyama Shinji) who used the art pseudonym Ichiôsai (一鶯齋). He was a minor artist of the Hasegawa school working in the Kanô style of painting who also designed actor portraits for hagoita (battledores: 羽子板) and happened to teach Toyohara Kunichika in his early years (around 11 or 12 years of age). Kunichika, in turn, taught the later Toyohara (Yôshû) Chikanobu, the subject of the present essay. Thus, the earlier Ichiôsai Chikanobu was the source of the Toyohara art name for both Kunichika and Yôshû Chikanobu.
Toyohara Chikanobu's names/signatures/seals
Personal name (jinmei):
Hashimoto Naoyoshi (橋本直義)
Art Names (geimei):
Art pseudonyms (gô):
Yoshû (楊洲) the most frequently encountered gô; see signature at top far right (from 1896).
Yoshûsai (楊洲齋) see signature, second from top right (from 1877), also has "Yoshû" seal
Yoshû Naoyoshi (楊洲直義)
Ikkakusai Kunitsuru II (一鶴齋國鶴 二代)
Pupils of Toyohara Chikanobu
Watanabe Nobukazu (渡辺延一 1872-1944)
Nabeta Gyokuei (鍋田玉英 act. c. 1878-1900; other geimei: Nobuharu: 延春, gô: Yôdô 楊堂)
[Suzuki ?] Nobuyuki ([鈴木 ?] 延雪 born 1878)
For more information about Toyohara Chikanobu, see John Fiorillo's web page: