Shibata Zeshin: Western Ships at Anchor - Honolulu Museum of Art

Artist: Shibata Zeshin

Title: Western Ships at Anchor

Date: c. 1880s

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Source: Honolulu Museum of Art
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As in most of Zeshin's prints, here there is a marvelous realization of brushwork in a print medium, and this is perhaps the genius inherent in these works. The suggestion that the ships at anchor in the harbor may be a reference to the Black Ships of Commodore Perry, who in the 1850s opened Japan to Western commerce, is doubtful. For one thing, Perry did not arrive with such a great fleet. (Howard A. Link "The Art of SHIBATA ZESHIN-The Mr. and Mrs. James E. O'Brien Collection at the Honolulu Academy of Arts" - Robert G Sawers Publishing in association with the Honolulu Academy of Arts, 1979) ************************ Zeshin was a professionally trained painter, although he is better known today as a lacquer artist. He was highly independent, and not satisfied with merely copying earlier designs. As a result, at the young age of 16 he studied under the innovative Suzuki Nanrei (1775-1844), who popularized the Shijö School style of painting in the city of Edo (modern Tokyo). Originating in Kyoto, the Shijö School was characterized by its innovative use of sketching from life as the basis of painting, a technique that began with Maruyama Ökyo (1733-1795), and was later modified with soft colors and brush strokes by Matsumura Gekkei (Goshun) (1752-1811). In 1830, when Zeshin was twenty-four years old, he went to Kyoto to further his studies under Gekkei's student Okamoto Toyohiko (1773-1845). The soft brushstrokes of sumi ink and naturalistic depiction of the landscape in this print reveal Zeshin’s mastery of the Shijö School's skillful brush techniques. (“DESIGNED BY SHIBATA ZESHIN (1807-1891)” - DECEMBER 23, 2010-FEBRUARY 20, 2011)

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