Gyokutei Yoshimine (玉亭芳峰), active from around the mid-1850s to the late 1880s, designed yakusha-e (actor prints: 役者絵), sensô-e (war prints: 戦争絵), and surimono (privately issued specialty prints: 摺物), as well as illustrations for nishiki-e shinbun (color-picture newspapers: 錦絵新聞) and shôsetsu (novels: 小説). Beyond the surmise that he was apparently a pupil of Ichiôsai Yoshiume (一鶯齋芳梅 1819–79), we know little else about Yoshimine.
More research is need on the career of Yoshimine, but it appears that most of his production of nishiki-e (full-color woodblock prints: 錦絵) spanned about twenty-five years from the mid-1850s to the late 1870s. These were primarily of two types: yakusha-e and sensô-e, the latter being scenes from the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877, most often with the heroic Saigô Takamori [Takanaga] (西郷隆盛 [隆永], 1828-1877) as the featured attraction. Otherwise, Yoshimine designed a few, very rare oversized surimono with images that were accompanied by poems (see below).
A rare ôban-format design by Yoshimine, and a fairly early work by him, is shown above. The actors are (UR) Onoe Tamizô II (尾上多見蔵) as [mago, pack-horse driver: 馬子] Edohei (江戸平); (LR) Arashi Kichisaburô III as (嵐吉三郎) as [modoriuma, "on the way back" horse driver, 戻り馬] Hachizô (八蔵); and (LL) Arashi Rikaku II (嵐璃珏) as [yakko, servant, 奴] Ippei (逸平) in a performance of Senryô tazuna koi no somekomi (A thousand gold coins and love for a colorfully dyed bridle: 千金手綱恋染込) staged at the Naka Theater, Osaka in 8/1857. The play was probably a variant of Koi nyôbô somewake tazuna (The beloved wife's multicolored halter: 恋女房染分手綱). The carver is named at the lower left as horiko Gen (彫工源) and the printer as suriko Kichizô (摺工吉蔵). For this grouping, Yoshimine followed the kabuki ukiyo-e convention of portraying two or more actors close together when, actually, they were far apart on stage. In a "tug-o'-war" scene, all three grip a purple and white-striped halter or rope that Edohei and Ippei, standing at either end, are trying to pull away from Hachizô in one of the frequently depicted episodes from the play.
Two rare actor portraits are shown above. On the left, Bandô Hikosaburô V (板東彦三郎 1832-77) is in the role of Sakuramaru (桜丸) in Sugawara denju tenarai kagami (Mirror of learning & transmitting Sugawara's secrets of calligraphy: 菅原伝授手習鑑) at the Naka Theater, Osaka in 3/1859. Kagami-e (mirror pictures: 鑑絵) or roundel portraits were understood to be both reflections of actors in mirrors and telescopic close-ups of mie (dramatic poses: 見得) on the stage, as is the case with Yoshimine's print. On the right, in a print published by Sawada-ban (沢田板), Bandô Mitsugorô VI (坂東三津五郎 1846-73) performs as Kuronushi (黒ぬし), circa early 1870s. The title cartouche at the upper right reads, referring to the fifth-generation practitioner (real name Kiya Denjirô, 木谷伝次郎 1837-1906) of a branch of the famous jôruri-style chanting/narration school founded by Takemoto Gidayû (竹本義太夫, 1651-1714). Kiya is the figure depicted in the upper-right inset. The intense red background is one of the so-called kakushin no iro ("colors of progress": 革新の色) that proved to be so popular during Meiji .
One of the more spectacular surimono published in Osaka during early the Meiji period is shown above. This portrayal is a tsuizen-e (memorial picture: 追善絵) for Ichikawa Kodanji IV (市川小團次 1812-1866). Kodanji performs as one of the fierce and muscular Nio (仁王), the pair of wrathful guardians of the Buddha. Kodanji trained for kabuki during his adolescence in Nagoya, Ise, and Kyoto, where he learned the particular stylized realism of that region. He was not blessed with an attractive or compelling physical appearance or dramatic voice, but he had a feverish intensity that enabled him to become a fine tachiyaku (specialist in male roles: 立役). He excelled in hayagawari (quick-change techniques: 早替り) and was a pioneer for many keren (stage tricks or special effects: 外連) such as chûnori ("middle riding" or flying: 中乗り). This design, with its many poems, commemorates either an anniversary of Kodanji's death or a notable stage role.
Among Yoshimine's various portrayals of events from the Seinan Sensô (Southwestern War or Satsuma Rebellion: 西南戦争) is a series of so-called "reports" with three distinct scenes on each ôban-format sheet. The example shown above is "Report No. 5." These designs were published by Asai Kinjirô (浅井金治良), who was located at 22 banchi 4 banchi Naniwa shinchi, 9 choku, dai 2 daiku, Osaka. The conflict's iconic protagonist was Saigô Takamori (西郷隆盛). Saigô ran afoul of the Imperial government when he insisted that Japan should go to war with Korea in 1873 due to that nation's refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the Emperor Meiji as head of state of the Empire of Japan. Saigô resigned from all of his government positions in protest and returned to his hometown of Kagoshima. A private military academy was established there for the faithful samurai who had also resigned their posts to follow Saigô from Tokyo. With the restoration of the emperor in 1868, the dissolution of daimyô domains in 1871, and the ban against the wearing of swords in public in 1876, many samurai had become disillusioned with the reforms and were willing to fight for a return of the shogunate. These samurai came to dominate the Kagoshima government, and fearing a rebellion, the Imperial government sent warships to Kagoshima to remove weapons from the Kagoshima arsenal. Outnumbered at times by as many as sixty-to-one, the rebels were defeated, whereupon Saigô, who was seriously wounded, purportedly chose suicide rather than capture. In the center panel of Yoshimine's print, Saigô holds aloft his flag with his emblem, a cross within a circle. It also appears as a stylized green repeat pattern superimposed over the long descriptive texts inscribed above, seemingly in competition with the red "Rising Sun" flags representing the Imperial troops.
Another portrait of Saigô is shown below, where, instead of creating panels on a single sheet, Yoshimine used the traditional triptych format. The multi-color title cartouche at the far upper left reads Satsuma seisenki (Chronicle of the Battle of Satsuma: 薩肥性戰記). Saigô is seated at the far right observing one of his men painting a placard calling for a "New Government" (Shinsei: 新政) in the "Great Capital" (Dai Miyako: 大都). For more about Saigô — the "last true samurai" — see the Osaka-Prints web page.
During the 1880s Yoshimine focused on illustrations for shôsetsu (novels: 小説), especially fiction written by Udagawa Bunkai (宇田川文海 1848-1930), a major literary figure in Kansai during the Meiji Period. The publisher for these works was Shinshindô (駸々堂), who issued the books both in Osaka and Kyoto. Udagawa, a novelist and newspaper reporter, was also known as Toriyama Susetzô (鳥山捨三); Toriyama was his mother's maiden name. He was the third son of Iseya Ichibei, a tool shop owner (and possibly a furniture maker) in Edo Hongo. Aside from his novels, Udagawa translated Act IV of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice for a kabuki version titled Sakura doki zeni no yo no naka (Money Talks in a World in which Cherry Blossoms are in Bloom: 何桜彼桜銭世中) in 1886. He gained some notoriety when around 1901 he became romantically involved with Kanno Suga (管野スガ 1881-1911), a newspaper journalist, writer, feminist, and socialist activist/anarchist who was later charged, as were 26 others, with conspiring to assassinate the Emperor in the so-called Taigyaku Jiken ("High Treason Incident": 大逆事件). Eleven men were executed on January 24, 1911; Kanno was executed following day.
Some of the novels illustrated by Yoshimine are graced with many images. There are, for example, 25 illustrations in Obi hitosuji (帯一すぢ); see below.
Selected Books of Fiction Illustrated by Gyokutei Yoshimine
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Pupils of Utagawa Yoshimine
So far, no artists have been identified as pupils of Yoshimine. © 2021 by John Fiorillo