Scenes of Foreigners: England, a colour woodblock print by Utagawa Yoshitora
Edo period, AD 1860
Yoshitora (worked about 1850-80) was an artist of Edo (modern Tokyo) who produced many pictures of foreigners living in the nearby coastal town of Yokohama, one of the limited number of ports that the shogunal government agreed to open to foreign trade in 1858. These works were often produced rather quickly and with little care, in an attempt to meet the high demand from the general public for works showing the exotic visitors. Yoshitora produced more of this type of print, known as 'Yokohama pictures' (Yokohama-e) than any other artist of the time.
Compositions were often copied from other works, with only minor changes made or with the simple addition of a title, as is the case with this print. The characters around the umbrella read 'Gaikoku jimbutsu-zukushi' ('Scenes of Foreigners') and those to the left are to be read 'Igirisu' ('England'). The woman's dress here is largely imaginary, as artists themselves were seldom able to see the foreigners in real life. They used Western illustrations and earlier Nagasaki school prints for reference and made up a semi-fictional appearance. Sometimes a short explanatory text would be added. The supply of Yokohama prints came to out-strip demand, and their production peaked in about 1861. After this, printmakers attempted to revive the public's interest by switching to topographical views of foreign lands.
The bottom-left inscription reads 'Yoshitora ga' ('Picture by Yoshitora') and the censorship seal above indicates the twelfth month of the monkey year (1860).
M. Narasaki (ed.), Hizō Ukiyo-e taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1988)