Yokohama-e – by Hiroshige Utagawa II
Articles Blog

Yokohama-e – by Hiroshige Utagawa II

March 8, 2020


Hello friends of Japanese prints. My name is Dieter Wanczura. But please call me just Dieter. It’s much
easier. I’m the manager and owner of the artelino company. We sell Japanese art
prints in weekly online auctions. We also produce these videos, of course, to
encourage you to bring Japanese prints closer to you. And today I want to
present this lovely woodblock print. It’s by Hiroshige II Utagawa. And it
belongs to the genre of ‘yokohama-e’. These are Japanese woodblock prints from around 1855 until 1865/1870 – showing foreigners in Japan because at that time
the common Japanese people had never seen foreigners before. And I want to
connect it by telling you a story, an incident from the history of the time
from 1862, an incident that happened in Japan with a group of British
foreigners. And this incident known as ‘Richardson affair’ or ‘Namamugi incident’. It led to severe problems between the two nations – between the British Empire
and Japan, and had led nearly to a full-scale war between the two nations.
Let me introduce a little bit Hiroshige II, Hiroshige Utagawa. He was born in 1829 and he died in 1869. He began as a pupil and student of the
great ukiyo-e master Ando Hiroshige. Ando Hiroshige was the master of landscape prints during the first half of
the 19th century. And Ando Hiroshige later adopted his pupil so he became an
adopted son of Ando Hiroshige. And Ando Hiroshige had a daughter and his adopted son and pupil later married his daughter. So he also became the
son-in-law. Hiroshige II Utagawa, after the death of his master, he
took over the studio. And he continued the printmaking style of his master, and
continued in the genre of landscape prints – mainly. You see a few on our
screen in the background. Well – these are from our trial archive which is
accessible for everyone. And these are a few examples of sold prints by Hiroshige II Utagawa. What are ‘yokohama-e’? ‘E’ is the Japanese word for image. And Yokohama is a city with an harbor in Japan. But Yokohama-e – that is the term for a specific genre of Japanese woodblock prints that show
foreigners – foreigners from roughly 1855 until so roughly 1870. But how come? Well, Japan was an isolated and completely excluded country since roughly 1600
until 1854/1855 when an American fleet forced the opening of Japan for trade
with outside. And then was the Treaty of Kanagawa that was concluded in a
in 1855. And then other Western nations soon followed with similar treaties. And
the Japanese had never seen foreigners before, and they had never seen what
they brought into the country like trains and other strange objects that
Japanese had never seen before. And at their time woodblock prints – that was the
media to get a message across. It was the media to print books, and it was the
media to print and copy images, and it was a good business at that time. So
quite a few of these ukiyo-e artists produced, created ‘yokohama-e’. I now want to present you this woodblock print that we will show in one of our
coming auctions, a little bit more in detail. It’s really – it’s exceptional in
my view. Well, the design is unusual . And it shows a female rider. And look at the
head. It shows a feathered hat. Thiis is really strange. And this is now my
personal opinion. I don’t think that the foreigners in the enclave of Yokohama
were running around with a hat like that. My explanation is the following:
Also the artists who made these woodblock prints, they never saw at that time a
foreigner in real. Because they were restricted to a small area in Yokohama
and in Nagasaki. But these artists had access to newspapers from outside
Japan. And I assume they probably saw a photograph of American Indians and
therefore designed it like this. But again – this is my personal explanation and I don’t know if it’s really true. But a few other things that
we can confirm. The print is dated 1860 and the publisher was Joshuya Juzo. And by the way, this design is also in the collection of William
Bigelow well the famous collector. And his collection is now hosted in the
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. When I saw this lovely woodblock print it reminded
me of an incident, an affair from the Japanese history from this time from
1862. And this is called the ‘Richardson affair’ or the ‘Namamugi incident.’ What
happened? Well – one by one. First let me talk a little bit about the atmosphere in Japan at that time. There
were these foreigners in this in enclave of the harbor of Yokohama and of
Nagasaki. And there was a hostile atmosphere in Japan towards these
foreigners. Especially conservative forces among the samurai, they opposed
the presence of foreigners. Their slogan was: “Expel the barbarians!”. And this treaty of Kanagawa, the Japanese regarded it as unfavorable for Japan. Well, you have to see this incident behind this background of hostility
towards these foreigners. So what happened? It happened precisely on
September 14th 1862, when three Englishmen and a lady from the Western Yokohama enclave – they went on an excursion ride on the old Tokaido. By the way Japanese artists later made woodblock prints of
this incident. But we don’t have any of these prints currently in stock. But
I want to show you one from Wikipedia. Okay this just as a background. And
there you see a clash. But let me continue. Well this group of four riders –
they went on the old Tokaido and they encountered a procession, a huge
possession of the ‘daimyo’ of Satsuma from the south of Japan on his way to Edo. And what happened now? To understand that, let me show an image
what the old Tokaido looked like. it was like this and it was rather
narrow. And now these two groups – the four riders and this huge procession of the
daimyo accompanied by many many of his samurai, they encountered each other. And the Japanese expected the foreigners to get off their horses and possibly also
bow. And what did the foreigners do? Well, it was a clash of cultural
misunderstandings mixed with a very stupid and arrogant kind of “white
supremacy” behavior of one of the Englishmen. His name was Charles Lennox Richardson. And on the side of the Japanese samurai – well – there was too much hot temper. What happened now? You see it on this old woodblock print. There – the English man in in the middle. A fight! The samurai drew their sword and began
to attack the Englishmen. Richardson – he fell down lying on the ground and later
he died. The rest of the party was partly wounded, but they could flee. Now you could imagine – this incident had
roused an outcry among the British public. And nearly one year later after a
lot of diplomatic encounters and meetings and exchanging of notes, on
August 15th 1863 a small British expedition force – a naval force – bombarded Kagoshima, the capital of Satsuma province, with artillery shells for
two days. Kagoshima fortunately had been evacuated before. But 500 houses
were destroyed, three Satsuma ships sunk, five civilians died. But the Satsuma
forces – they also had cannons, artillery. Ad they shot back, and they killed 11
British, including the captain and the commander of the British flagship. After
two days the British expedition fleet left. And from a political standpoint
none of the sides – neither Japan nor the British Empire – had an interest in
escalation of this incident and thus this Richardson affair ended with the
demonstration of saber-rattling. That looks like a long
video today so let me conclude it – but not before giving you a literature tip –
because there’s a wonderful book about Yokohama-e. II it’s this one: “Yokohama-e
Prints from 19th Century Japan” by – the author is Ann Yonemura. And I have made a little bit of research on the internet – checking if it’s still
available – because many of these books about Japanese prints are sold out today. And to my surprise I found it on different places including Amazon. But I found it on Abe Books – with 22 “books used” – for prices as low as – lower than $10. Well this has
nearly – pretty fat – has nearly 200 pages is an excellent coffee table book with a
lot of lovely images. So, this is really a steal. To make things clear, we are not
connected with Abe Books in any way. We don’t sell books. We offer Japanese prints in weekly online auctions and we are not
interested in selling books. But I want to give you some good information. And
when I find something and there is a little bit of a cookie, and I can give you a tip,
I will do it. Well – enough for today. And thanks for your patience – for this long
long video. And have a good weekend! Thank you! Goodbye!

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