KEINEN (1845-1924). Keinen kachō gafu
Artist: Imao Keinen (1845-1924)
Title: Keinen kachō gafu (Album of drawings of flowers and birds by Keinen). Four volumes, complete.
Description: Keinen kachō gafu is the most famous Japanese book of birds and flowers of the Meiji Period. Each volume is associated to a season. This work is linked to the world of Japanese textile and it was a design source for the kimono decoration and embroidery. The book was commissioned by Nishimura Sōzaemon (1855-1935), a major producer and trader in Kyōto specializing in embroidery and hand-painted yūzen textiles. A sheet in English that advertised the activity of Sōzaemon was occasionally included in each volume. The style of the illustrations, much influenced by Western art, met with great success in the West and many copies of the book were sold, at the end of the nineteenth century, in the universal exhibitions in Europe and America where Sōzaemon exhibited his textiles. The artist, Imao Keinen, was a famous painter and illustrator specializing in kacho-ga (painting of flowers and birds) that came from a house of costume-design coordinator that served the Mitsui family for generations. Like other artists in Kyōto, Keinen, in addition to his work as a painter, worked for Sōzaemon in the laborious decoration of yūzen fabrics. The Keinen kachō gafu was conceived and realized in close contact with the naturalist Yamamoto Akio and with two renowned artisans, the carver Tanaka Jirōkichi and the printer Miki Jinzaburō. The first edition of Keinen kachō gafu was published by Tanaka Jihei, a Kyōto publisher who curated the printing, publication and distribution while the woodblocks ownership was always of Nishimura Sōzaemon. Subsequently, around 1894, the publisher Unsōdō acquired all Tanaka Jihei stock and publication rights and reprinted the work with the original woodblocks, replacing in the colophon the name of Tanaka Jihei with his own.
Date: The first two volumes are dated in the colophon Meiji 24 (1891), the third and fourth Meiji 25 (1892).
Publisher: Nishimura Sozaemon, Tanaka Jihei, Kyōto.
Block-cutter: Tanaka Jirōkichi. Printer Miki Jinzaburō.
Size: 36,8 x 25,5 cm
Medium: Woodblock color printing.
Literature: Louise Norton Brown, in his work, Block Printing and Book Illustration in Japan, London 1924, erroneously reports as the date of the first edition 1885. In fact, an edition with this date has never been seen and this error is repeated by Bartlett and Shohara, Japanese Botany during the Period of Wood-block Printing, Los Ange- les 1961 and, with the benefit of the doubt, by Jack Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book, London 1987, p. 969. Regarding Nishimura Sōzaemon and Imao Keinen see McDermott & Pollard, Threads of Silk and Gold. Ornamen- tal Textiles from Meiji Japan, Oxford 2012, p. 42.
Remarks: Vol. One (Spring) 22 single page illustrations and 9 double page. Vol.Two (Summer) 24 single page illustrations and 8 double page. Vol. Three (Autumn) 34 single page illustrations and 4 double page. Vol. Four (Winter) 28 single page illustrations, 4 double page and 1 on four pages.
Conditions: Fine early impression and colour. Complete with original case. The books in fine conditions.
Item no: MK 15
Price: Euro 7500