Japan’s finest woodblock prints offered in online auction Feb. 24

Japanese woodblock prints

Imao Keinen (1845-1924) ‘A Book of Drawings of Flowers and Birds,’ Series 164, 1891-92, large oban-sized prints in four volumes, approximately 15 x 10in each volume. Estimate: $14,000-$17,000. Jasper52 image

NEW YORK – A Jasper52 auction composed of vintage Japanese woodblock prints set for Wednesday, Feb. 24, will include what is considered by some to be the most beautiful work of its kind ever printed in Japan. A Book of Drawings of Flowers and Birds by Imao Keinen (1845-1924) contains 164 large oban format prints. Bid absentee or live online exclusively through LiveAuctioneers.

Published by Nishimura Sozaemon in Kyoto, Japan in 1891-92, the work is contained in four volumes that measure 15 by 10 inches. Some prints are single-sheets, others are diptychs and quadriptychs. One of the most splendid productions of the Meiji period, the four-volume lot is estimated at $14,000-$17,000.

A woodblock print of the Odai Ferry in Tokyo is by Takashi Ito (1894-1983). This oban yoko-e format print, about 14 by 9½ inches,  was published by Watanabe, whose seal at lower right indicates an early postwar printing, circa 1945-50 (est. $1,500-$2,000).

Japanese woodblock prints

Takashi Ito (1894-1983), ‘Odai Ferry in Tokyo,’ published by Watanabe circa 1930, oban yoko-e format (approximately 9½ x 14¼ in. Estimate: $1,500-$2,000. Jasper52 image

An interesting scene of 19th century Japan is the post station Ishiyakushi along the Tokaido road, which is the island nation’s Eastern Sea Route, which runs from Edo (Toyko) to Kyoto. Utagawa Hiroshige’s work, printed in the oban yoko-e format, is from his series “Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido.” The print offered in the auction is a genuine impression from the 1833 printing blocks and is expected to sell for $2,000 to $2,500.

Japanese woodblock prints

Utagawa Hiroshige, ‘Post Station Ishiyakushi along the Tokaido,’ ‘Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido’ series, published by Hoeido, 1833-34, oban yoko-e format, about 14 x 9½in. Estimate: $2,000-$2,500. Jasper52 image

Another first edition in the auction is The Appearance of a Proprietress of the Kaei Era (1848-54) by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-92). The oban tate-e format print is from the artist’s “Thirty-two aspects of customs and manners” series. Tsunashima Kamekichi published this first edition woodblock print in 1888. The scene depicts a woman in a shop or garden buying a fukujuso (the “Adonis” or “pheasant-eye”), a perennial plant native to Japan that has a golden yellow flower

Japanese woodblock prints

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-92), ‘The Appearance of a Proprietress of the Kaei Era,’ 1848-54, from ‘Thirty-two aspects of customs and manners,’ published by Tsunashima Kamekichi, 1888, first edition, oban tate-e format, approximately 13½ x 9¼in. Estimate: $3,000-$3,500 Jasper52 image

Modern prints offered in the auction include Kurenai (Crimson) by Iwata Sentaro (1901-1974) from his White Plum series. This portrait of a beautiful woman dressed is red is presented in the dai-ôban format (30 x 42 cm). It carries a $600-$700 estimate.

Japanese woodblock prints

Iwata Sentaro (1901-1974), ‘Kurenai’ (Crimson), ‘White Plum’ series, signed Sen Iwata, 1970s, dai-ôban format, 30 x 42 cm (approximately 12 x 16¾ in. Estimate: $600-$700. Jasper52 image

Other famous Japanese artists featured in the auction include Hasui Kawase, Kogyo and  Isoda Koryusai. Whether capturing the serenity of a temple or a moonlit ocean, these images exemplify both fine art and elegant decoration.


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