Artist: Kobayashi Kiyochika
Title: Triptych Sei Shonagon from the series: Ancient Patterns
Date: 1886, published by Akiyama Buemon, signed: Toyohara Kunichika with toshidama seal
Size: 27.75" x 14.1 (overall) each panel approx. 9.25" x 14.1"
Condition: VG, margins trimmed, backed, and some soils
Impression: Fine, solid key lines, tight registration, and good surface texture
Color: Fine, deep saturated color with bleed through to verso
Notes: The woman shown in this print is Sei Shonagon the author of The Pillow Book during the Heian era in 1002. The translation of the poem gives a sense of her love of life: "Flea as I might, If I remain within this world I tire of nowhere: Such a lovely place to live."
About Kobayashi Kiyochika
Kiyochika was born in Edo as the son of the head of the Shogun’s warehouse, and at the of 15 he inherited the family estate after his father’s death. He went through a period of upheaval during the Meiji Restoration as a shogun’s retainer and became an art student in 1874. Two years later he gained popularity after presenting landscape prints called kosenga, a style of print that incorporated Western-style perspective, an effect of light and gradation of shadows in traditional ukiyo-e. His outstanding works include “Tokyo Shimohashi Ame Uchuzu” (Rainy Scene at Shimohashi Bridge in Tokyo) and “Kudanzaka Satsukiyo” (May Evening at Kudanzaka). He later drew caricatures called “Kiyochika Ponchi.”
In the great fire of Ryogoku in 1881, Kobayashi’s house burned down while he was out sketching. He returned to Genzuke-cho in Shiba, and ironically the work he produced during the fire was such a success that it was reprinted many times. Although he produced portraits and colored prints about the Sino-Japanese War, ukiyo-e gradually diminished in popularity. Kiyochika is called The Last Great Ukiyo-e Artist, and was deeply loved in his own time by many people who had a warm attachment to Edo.