- Museum number
Object: Kan Shōjō no rei 菅相丞の霊 (The spirit of Kan Shojo)
Series: Kankyo hyakurankai 看虚百覧怪 (Seeing the Void: One Hundred Apparitions)
Drawing, sumi ink on paper. The spirit of Sugawara no Michizane attacks Fujiwara Shihei at the imperial palace in Kyoto. From an album of 30 ‘block-ready’ preparatory drawings (hanshita-e) for an unpublished series.
- Production date
- 1880 (Hidden date on drawing no. 8 in set)
Height: 38 centimetres
Width: 25 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The series title is a pun on 'Kankyo hakurankai' 官許博覧会 (Official Exposition).
The album (2014,3006.1-30) has an old, hand-written title slip, apparently transferred from an earlier cover which reads ‘Yoshitoshi, Continuation of the series Thirty-Six Ghosts, block-ready drawings, 30 sheets’ 芳年 続三十六怪撰 版下絵 三拾枚 (Yoshitoshi, zoku Sanjūroku kaisen, hanshita-e, sanjū mai). However, the firm date of 1880 for the present series implies that this was an earlier, abandoned project, not a continuation of the series Thirty-Six Ghosts (published 1889-92).
Yamanaka Kodō 山中古洞 (1869 - ?), a former pupil of Yoshitoshi, mentioned the album in ‘Yoshitoshi den bikō’ 芳年伝備考 (Observations on the Biography of Yoshitoshi), published in 14 parts in the periodical Ukiyo-e shi 浮世絵志 from 1930-31. In part 8 (issue 25, 1931) he introduced the Apparitions album as ‘picture of supernatural subjects, a masterpiece of block-ready drawings’ 傑作版下妖怪絵 (kessaku hanshita yōkai-e), describing it as an album of thirty pictures drawn by the artist in 1880 at his residence in Nezu and, presently in 1931, in the collection of the painter Kaburaki Kiyokata (1878-1973). Yamanaka illustrated one sheet, the picture of Kiyohime (no. 14). The hand-written date Meiji 13 (1880) on two of the wooden grave markers in no. 8 is additional evidence that this is indeed the same album. He added that he himself owned one additional drawing whose subject and whereabouts is presently unknown.
Iwakiri Yuriko and Roger Keyes (separate communications) have suggested the following possibilities for some of the seven different seals of former owners which are impressed inside the cover of the album:
The elephant seal may belong to Yoshitoshi's pupil, friend, and publisher Akiyama Bu’emon. Akiyama used a similar seal (without the swastika) on Toshikage's memorial portrait of Yoshitoshi in 1894. (He is listed as a pupil on the Yoshitoshi monument. However he only started publishing Yoshitoshi's colour prints in 1883, and is therefore unlikely to have commissioned the present drawings.)
The ‘Tō/Fuji’ 藤 and ‘Ichiran’ 一藍 seals on the individual drawings very possibly belong to Fujiura Shūkichi 藤浦周吉 (Sanshū 三周), a wealthy and important pupil of the celebrated storyteller Sanyūtei Enchō. After Enchō's death in 1900, Sanshū assumed liability for the family's debts and temporarily took charge of both the Enchō name and artist's collection of around 40 ghost paintings which he donated to Zenshōan. (Enchō intended to acquire 100 ghost paintings, but died before reaching half the number.)
Sanshū may have been close to Yoshitoshi. His name is listed second (as Daikongashi Sanshū 大根河岸三周) among the individual donors on the Yoshitoshi memorial monument (1898), right below Jōno Denbei (Yoshitoshi's friend and publisher, Kiyokata's father), and above the kabuki actor Onoe Kikugorō V, Sanyūtei Enchō, Enchō's students, and eighteen others. (Okakura Kakuzō is listed first on the stone before the four publishing companies Yamato Shinbunsha [Jōno's company], Tokyo Asahi Shinbunsha, Hakubunkan and Shunyōdō. Perhaps he was the honorary patron/sponsor of the memorial event, not a person with a personal link to Yoshitoshi or an individual donor.)
Sanshū's son Fujiura Tomitarō 藤浦富太郎 continued collecting ghost paintings and brought the number at Zenshōan up to the present fifty. Tomitarō's name appears before Akiyama Buemon on the Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) memorial monument. If the ‘Tō/Fuji’ 藤seal on the covers does not belong to Sanshū, then it may belong to him. (Tomitarō's son Fujiura Atsushi, a film director and screenwriter, was born in 1930. By 1931 the album already belonged to Kiyokata.)
There are three additional, as yet unidentified seals: Ajisai-in Bunko (紫陽花矣文庫), Choen or Ōchisono (樗園), and ‘So-?’ (素□).
(T. Clark, 2014)
Yoshitoshi is celebrated as a master of the macabre, specialising in fantastical evocations of historical and mythical subjects. The drawings in this album are representative of his art at its skilful and most imaginative best. ‘Block-ready drawings’ (hanshita-e) for colour woodblock prints are by their nature extremely rare, since they were generally stuck face-down on the cherry wood printing blocks and destroyed when the block cutter carved through the back of the drawing. For reasons unknown, the present series must have been abandoned just before it was about to be cut. The drawings have tremendously accomplished line quality and the consensus is that all are from the hand of the artist himself. The museum has 4 rare block-ready drawings by Hokusai.
In 1992, the museum acquired an important album of 52 working drawings (shita-e) by Yoshitoshi for prints (1990,0614,0.1.1-52). These relate to designs from all parts of his mature career and include some of his most famous designs. The drawings are early-stage working sketches with many corrections and pentimenti, starting with rough outlines in red and switching to black as the design crystallised in the artist’s mind. They are the most significant group in a public collection. The present album is from the different, final stage of preparatory drawing and therefore the two albums are completely complimentary.
(T. Clark, 2014)
- Yamanaka Kodō, ‘Yoshitoshi den bikō’, Ukiyo-e shi, part 8, no. 23, 1931, p. 00, illustration of drawing no. 14
- Roger S. Keyes, ‘Courage and silence: a study of the life and color woodblock prints of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’, Ph.D. dissertation, Ann Arbour, University Microfilms International, 1982-3, p. 441
- Iwakiri Yuriko. ‘Hanshita-e Kankyo hyakurankai kiki semaru fude’, Bessatsu taiyō, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Tokyo, Heibonsha, 2012, pp. 147-161, where all of the drawings are illustrated and described in Japanese
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.Add.1319