The Kyoto-born Yûrakusai Nagahide (有樂齋長秀), active c, 1799-1842, represents a curious case of an artist who worked simutaneously and on a large scale over many years with stencil-prints (kappazuri-e, 合羽摺絵) and full-color prints (nishiki-e or brocade-print: 錦絵). He also experimented with a range of formats, including hosoban (approx. 34 x 15 cm), distinctive hexagonal kappazuri-e, and hashira-e (pillar prints: 柱絵 approx. 75 x 13 cm) that were otherwise rarely encountered in Kamigata (Kyoto-Osaka region).
The Kamigata region (Kyoto-Osaka) had a viable tradition of stencil prints since the 1740s in album and book illustration as well as in theater programs, but by at least the mid 1780s full-color printing for single-sheet designs had become the preferred method for Osaka artists and publishers. While Nagahide did turn to nishiki-e in the ôban format by the late 1810s, he worked with stencil prints (usually in the hosoban format) from around the late 1790s-early 1800s through the early 1840s.
The stencil print as it was used in Osaka printmaking involved printing the key block outlines from woodblocks in the usual ukiyo-e manner, but then applying brushed colors through stencils instead of printing from carved color blocks. The process was faster and less expensive than the woodblock method, and the range of colors and special effects were generally more limited. Many Osaka stencil prints often have a more primitive look than their contemporary nishiki-e cousins, although some were very well printed, as were the designs illustrated on this page.
A very rare hosoban actor print by Nagahide with especially well-preserved colors is shown above, depicting (TR) Yoshizawa Iroha I (芳沢いろは or 芳澤いろは) as Toshihiro's wife Okukata (おくかた); (BR) Arashi Kichisaburô II (嵐吉三郎) as Toshihiro (としひろ); and (L) Ichikawa Danzô IV (市川團蔵) as Shurinosuke (千嶋の介) in the play Keisei sakura hana-shima (けいせい櫻花嶋) at the Shijô Kitagawa (四条北側) Theater, Kyoto in 1/1803. The publisher was Honken-ban (本堅板). In this instance, the facial likenessses (nigao) are drawn in a manner much indebted to the founder of the mature actor-print style in Kamigata, Ryûkôsai Jokei. However, having an active period of more than three decades, there was time for Nagahide's nigao to shift from the influence of Ryûkôsai to a more personalized manner of actor likenesses, which is especially evident in his ôban nishiki-e. In these works the style is more curvilinear and flowing, in keeping with the trend throughout Kamigata printmaking of the later 1810s through the 1850s.
In the 1810s–30s, Nagahide found an especially fertile field when he became the most prolific designer of Gion nerimono-e or prints of the costume parades in the Gion quarter of Kyoto (祇園邌物絵). One series of roughly 160 known stencil prints in hosoban-format with designs by various artists was titled Gion mikoshi arai nerimono sugata (Fashionable costume parades in Gion: 祇園神輿洗 ねりもの姿). Nagahide produced at least 26 designs for this series in 1813-18.
Gion was the largest geisha quarter in Kyoto and the parade of fancy costumes was a popular annual event that took place during July in or near the Gion teahouse district as part of the millennium-old Gion festival. Surviving examples of these prints with known dates were issued circa 1813-24 by at least 16 different Kyoto publishers, with the exception of two prints known from 1836. The most productive year in this span seems to be the very first, 1813. Other years might have seen the production of unidentified Gion nerimono prints, as there are surviving e-banzuke ("program prints") for the years 1825-1840. These were illustrated souvenir program sheets identifying the geisha and costumes. However, only the two previously mentioned specimens are known from this later period, perhaps suggesting economic reasons for the lack of production (assuming that what did exist simply hasn't been lost to us).
An example (shown directly above) by Nagahide from the first year of Gion nerimono production portrays the geisha Tora (とら), whose costume includes a triple bellflower crest, from the Kyô-Izutsuya (亰いずつや) holding up a small tray-table, published by Yamasa-ban (山佐板) and Miyahisa-ban (宮久板). She performs or pantomimes the role of Soga no Gorô (曽我ノ五郎), whose butterfly crest appears in a repeat pattern on Tora's black robe. Gorô was one of two brothers intent on avenging the murder of their father in the famous Soga monogatari (Tale of the Soga: 曾我物語) situated in the twelfth century. Kudô Suketsune, a retainer of the shogun (often dramatized as a stand-in for Minamoto no Yoritomo) is the villain of the story. The older brother, Soga no Jûrô (曽我ノ十郎), is killed in the fighting, as is Kudô Suketsune. Gorô dies later by execution.
Many examples from the series include a tanzaku-style ("poem slip") title cartouche with umebachi (stylized plum blossom) and mitsudomoe (three-fish or three-comma, yin-yang symbol). Nagahide's design was especially well printed for a stencil print, including the use of metallic pigments (unusual for the stencil process, although not rare). Each of the prints in the series depicted a different geisha in a special costume, in this case rather elaborate robes for a geisha. Many of the designs were probably subsidized by the teahouses or patrons of the geisha as promotions for their famous beauties. Various Kamigata artists contributed to this series, including Seikoku, Hotta, Harusada, Hidemaro, Kasho, Yukinaga, Goshichi Harukawa, Hasegawa Toyokuni, and Nagahide, the last designing about two-thirds of the prints in the series.
Personal names (jinmei):
Nagahide had few pupils. Perhaps the best known is Nagakuni (長國 act. c. 1816–17), who was a different artist from the print designer using that name briefly around 1813, but who then produced far more prints while using the later name Gigadô Ashiyuki (戯画堂芦幸 act. c. 1813-1833).
Nagahide's pupils included:
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