special woodblock print collection

Special Collection - Various Artists

This page displays our special collection of ukiyo-e prints. These prints represent a variety of artists and genres. Prints that we think are exceptional aesthetically and/or thematically. There's no particular order in the presentation.


Mongaku doing penace at the Nachi waterfall


What better image to start off our Crosseyed Gallery, Special Collections page? This is Kunichika's "Mongaku Doing Penace at the Nachi Waterfall" and a great example of the “nirami” or crosseyed glare. After mistakenly beheading his beloved, Kesa Gozen, while attempting to kill her husband, the warrior Endo Morito renounced his evil ways and became a Buddhist monk. He prayed for twenty-one days under the icy waterfall, only surviving with divine assistance. Kunichika designed several images of this tale, but I think this is one of the most direct and powerful.

Woman watching fireworks at Shinobazu Park


I think this is one of the most beautiful "Bijin-ga" images from Toyohara Kunichika, "Woman Watching Fireworks at Shinobazu Park" (上野公園より不忍花火の夜景). It's from a triptych printed in 1887. Unfortunately I only have this panel. Her relaxed expression, and breezy summer kimono are gorgeously rendered. Behind her, one can sense the excitement of the evening celebrations.



Fireworks at Ryogoku in the Evening Cool


Keeping with the Bijin-ga fireworks theme, here is "Fireworks at Ryogoku in the Evening Cool". This is also by Kunichika, and Yasuji Inoue, from
 1887. Beautiful scene of a beauty enjoying the evening cool at Ryogoku as fireworks explode in the night sky, sending down showers of colorful sparks. She wears a blue print summer cotton kimono over a red under robe, tied with an obi that reverses from green and blue checks to a yellow print, her sleeves blowing in the breeze. Behind her boats filled with people enjoying the display fill the river, with teahouses lining the opposite shore, red lanterns hanging from their eaves. A terrific design with fine line work in the hair and handsome wood grain impression in the night sky.


Kameido Uramon, Tamaya


Taking a break from Kunichika, here's a wonderful print from Hiroshige "Kameido Uramon, Tamaya" (Back gate of Kameido Shrine, Tamaya Restaurant, 江戸高名會亭盡 亀戸裏門 玉屋), ca. 1838-1840, from the series Edo komei kaitei zukushi (Collection of famous Edo restaurants). The red gate on the right is the back gate of Kameido Tenmangu. You can find this print in these major collections https://collections.mfa.org/objects/237051 and https://www.hiroshige.org.uk/Views_Of_Edo/Images/EdoRestaurants_12_TamataKameido.jpg On this website we have a couple of articles about restaurant-themed woodblock prints, along with a collection of Kunichika's "36 Modern Restaurants".




This print is "Yoshiwara" from Hiroshige and Kunisada's collaborative "Twin Brushes" Tokaido series. In the foreground, Toyokuni depicts the priest Saigyo sitting with his knees to his chest, his hands clasped as he looks up to contemplate the view of Mt. Fuji in Hiroshige's landscape above. He wears a gray robe shadowed in black, his woven hat and walking staff beside him. Above, a large pine tree with colorful vines climbing up it frames a view of rice fields stretching across the valley, the snow-capped peak of Mt. Fuji rising in the distance. 


Nakamura Utaemon IV as Kiyomori


Now, let's get back to a powerful actor image "Nakamura Utaemon IV as Kiyomori". From the series: Tôto kômei kaiseki tsukushi (Famous Restaurants of the Eastern Capital). The restaurant featured is "Hirasei" in Fukagawa-dobashi. Date: 1/1853. This handsome print is from a collaborative series by Kunisada and Hiroshige. Kunisada created the large actor portraits in the foreground, with Hiroshige designing the smaller landscape and still-life insets relating to the featured restaurant or its location. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has many of these images in its collection.



Tokyo Kaika Kyoga Meisho


Now a comic departure to an interesting Yoshitoshi print from his series 'Crazy Pictures of Famous Places in Tōkyō' (Tōkyō kaika kyōga meishō ) 1881. This image will resonate with any food service worker. 

Maboroshi (The Wizard)


Another contemplative image from Ogata Gekko  - 1893. This is Chapter 41. From the 54 Chapters of the Tale of Genji. 



Shiraga bosetsu


This gorgeous Utagawa Kuniyoshi print was given to me by my Uncle Michael in the early 1990's. Printed in 1851, it depicts "Shiraga Bosetsu" 白髪暮雪 (series) Aumi hakkei (Personal Encounters for the Eight Views). An unidentified actor with long white hair viewed from the rear in an elaborate robe with the design of a junk, standing amongst falling cherry blossoms. 



A Human Textile Pattern to Stop You from Yawning


A wrinkled but fascinating print "A Human Textile Pattern to Stop You from Yawning": With Fourteen Bodies, It Looks Like Thirty-five People - Circa 1842. This comic design by Kuniyoshi is of interlocking bodies forming a textile design. This type of subject falls under the genre of "yaso-e" or "gather together pictures," designs that combine figures to create other kinds of objects or forms. A great example of Kuniyoshi's imaginative comic prints.


Taikobo Fishing without Bait


Ogata Gekko's print of the elderly scholar Taikobo (the Chinese Tai Gongwang) sitting on a rocky outcrop fishing. The interesting part is that he fished without bait because he was not really interested in catching fish, but rather in using the quiet time to think. He is wrapped in a tan robe, seated on an animal skin, quietly watching the line for any sign of movement. The banners of the emperor's procession appear over the distant hillside, the mountains below rendered in pale gray. An attractive natural setting with a soft color palette.