Scholten Japanese Art

On the Frontlines: Japanese War Prints (1877-1938)

On the Frontlines: Japanese War Prints (1877-1938)

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915), Yasuda Hanpo (1889-1947), Hasegawa Sadanobu III (1881-1963), and Igawa Sengai (1876-1961)

During the Meiji Era (1868-1912), and the early 20th century, Japan went through major cultural and political changes as it opened to the West and sought to become a dominant power on the world stage. It was a time of rapid modernization, as society transformed away from a feudal system based on samurai culture, and instead drew on Western models with a new imperial government. Old social classes were abolished, the army was reformed, a navy was created, and industries adopted emerging modern technologies – including those of modern warfare.

The artistic traditions of Japan also saw major changes during this time, as the introduction of foreign techniques for print production and photography was nearly ruinous to the once vibrant woodblock print industry. It was Japan’s desire to simultaneously depict and promote its military ambitions and technological advancements in a way that appealed to the nostalgia for “old Japan” that helped to revive productivity in the woodblock print market during this time.

The first work in this viewing room depicts a battle from the Satsuma Rebellion (Jan 1877 – Sept 1877), a revolt of disaffected samurai against the newly formed imperial government, in which the samurai warriors were decisively crushed. Following works depict battles from two major international wars that took place during the Meiji Era; the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) between Japan and China, and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) between Japan and Russia. The final two works present patriotic and nationalistic depictions of soldiers from the 1930s as Japan sought to solve its economic problems caused by the Great Depression though military expansion.

Image Credit:

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915), Using an Electric Searchlight in the Attack on Pyeongyang (detail), 1894

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

A Complete Chronicle of the Conquest of Kagoshima: Illustration of the Navy Landing at Sukuchi Village

1877

14 1/2 by 29 1/2 in., 36.7 by 74.8 cm

woodblock triptych

One of the most intense battles during the Satsuma Rebellion on Kagoshima began on March 3, 1877 at Tabaruzaka Hill. The rebel forces of 5,000 were eventually hopelessly outnumbered by the Imperial troops which rose to 90,000. Both sides suffered heavy losses, with 4,000 wounded or dead on each side.

$1,800

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)

Picture of the Naval Battle of Pungdo in Korea

1894

14 3/4 by 30 1/8 in., 37.5 by 76.4 cm

woodblock triptych

This print depicts the first outbreak of naval hostilities between Japan and China in July 1894 off the coast of Asan. On July 25th, the Japanese encountered the Chinese gunboat Guangyi and cruiser Jiyuan on their way to escort the Kowshing, a chartered British steamer carrying Chinese soldiers and supplies. When the Chinese ships did not return a standard international maritime salute, the Japanese navy began firing on the ships.

$1,300

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915), Picture of the Naval Battle of Pungdo in Korea (detail), 1894

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)

Our Elite Forces Capturing the Pescadores Islands in Taiwan

1895

14 by 27 5/8 in., 35.6 by 70.3 cm

woodblock triptych

Although this design was initially issued in December 1894 without a title, the subject is identifiable because Kiyochika used nearly the same composition in a circular cartouche on a sugoroku board game in December of 1894 which is identified as Fenghuangcheng, a riverside fortress which the Chinese evacuated and set fire to on October 29-30, 1894 as they retreated out of Korea across the Yalu River into Manchuria.

$1,800

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)

Using an Electric Searchlight in the Attack on Pyeongyang

1894

14 3/4 by 29 1/2 in., 37.5 by 75 cm

woodblock triptych

After war was declared on August 1, 1894, the first major attack began at daybreak on September 15th when the Japanese army attacked the walled city of Pyeongyang, which was the last Chinese position in Korea. By the evening, the Chinese forces collapsed and the supreme commander had fled, allowing the Japanese to take control of the city the next day. Kiyochika depicts Japanese artillery utilizing a searchlight fueled by a generator to pierce the inky night sky and guide their aim across the Taedong River.

$1,500

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915), Picture of the Saikyo-maru's Hard Fight off Haiyang Island (detail), 1894

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)

Picture of the Saikyo-maru's Hard Fight off Haiyang Island

1894

14 3/4 by 30 in., 37.4 by 76.1 cm

woodblock triptych

The Saikyo Maru was a cargo ship that was requisitioned and armed by the Japanese navy in 1894 and famously participated in the battle of the Yalu River (also known as the Battle of Haiyang Island) under the command of Captain John Wilson (born Frederick Walgren, Swedish, 1851-1899) while carrying the viscount Admiral Kabayama Sukenori, chief of the Naval General Staff of Japan. The Saikyo Maru was hit by four 12-inch shells and attacked by torpedo boats. Although she lost the protection of the main Japanese fleet during the battle, she managed to avoid sinking and escape due to her speed and Captain Wilson's capable command.

$1,500

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Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)

Our Troops Take Rongcheng Bay and Make a Landing

1895

14 5/8 by 29 1/2 in., 37.1 by 74.9 cm

woodblock triptych

$1,200

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Yasuda Hanpo (1889-1947), Illustration of the Eighth Attack on Port Arthur: The Flagship of Russia Was Destroyed by the Torpedo of Our Navy and Admiral Makarov Drowned (detail), 1904

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Illustration of the Landing and Advance to Weihaiwei

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)

ca. 1895

14 3/4 by 29 3/4 in., 37.6 by 75.5 cm

woodblock triptych

$1,500

Yasuda Hanpo (1889-1947)

Illustration of the Eighth Attack on Port Arthur: The Flagship of Russia Was Destroyed by the Torpedo of Our Navy and Admiral Makarov Drowned

1904

27 3/4 by 14 in., 70.4 by 35.7 cm

woodblock triptych

The dramatic format of this vertical triptych captures an event which took place on April 1, 1904 when the Japanese navy lured the Russian commander of the Pacific Fleet, Vice Admiral Stepan Osipovich Makarov (1848-1904) into a minefield which had been laid the previous evening. The Russian flagship, the Petropavlovsk was destroyed, sinking so quickly all were lost, some 679 souls, including Makarov.

$2,600

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -
9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Hasegawa Sadanobu III (1881-1963)

The Three Brave Bombers

1932

15 by 29 5/8 in., 38.1 by 75.1 cm

woodblock triptych

On February 22, 1932, three young soldiers were inadvertently killed by an exploding Bangalore torpedo that they were carrying while attempting to penetrate section of barbed fortification during an assault on Chinese forces in Shanghai. The Japanese authorities and press quickly adapted the story as propaganda, describing the event as a purposeful action on the part of the heroic young men who strapped dynamite to their bodies and charge the enemy in a suicidal attack. The three soldiers, Eshita Takeji, Kitagawa Susumu, and Sakue Inosuke became martyrs, and became known variously as 'Three Brave Human Bombs,' 'Three Brave Human Bullets,' or the 'Three Brave Bombers' and the subject of six propaganda films and further celebrated with a specialty dish offered at the cafeteria at the Takashimaya department store, as well as brands of rice crackers and sake.

$1,200

Igawa Sengai (1876-1961)

Prints of the China Incident: Sixth Compilation, Thirty-six Brave Soldiers under Commanding Officer Yanagizawa of the Combat Engineers Forming a Human Pillar in the Creek

1938

16 3/8 by 11 1/4 in., 41.5 by 28.5 cm

woodblock print

$650

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

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