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Some Sketches of the Japan-China War, Volume 4

Japanese Color Lithograph Book

Some Sketches of the Japan-China War,

Volume 4

by Asai Chū, 1895


IHL Cat. #873

About This Book

Volume 4 of four bound volumes by the artist Asai Chū (1856-1907) forming a pictorial account of the battles of Japan's Second Army on China's Liaodong Peninsula during the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895).   

Asai's sketches, created at the battle front, were done with pencil and pen and then highlighted with watercolors1.  They were then reproduced using full-color lithography by the publisher Shinyōdō, who included five or six color plates in each volume accompanied by a table of contents and a preface written by Asai.  It is likely that the text and cover were printed by woodblock.  While woodblock printing was the predominant printing method for artists' renderings of the war, both lithography and photography were making great inroads in replacing woodblock methods, being seen as more technologically modern and providing for greater realism. 


Asai's Work at the Front

Along with Kubota Beisen (1852-1906), Yamamoto Hōsui, Koyama Shōtarō [1857-1916], Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924) and a handful of other artists, Asai traveled to China to create images of the war from the front, rather than from the comfort of Tokyo, where almost all of the woodblock senso-e (war prints) were created.  He traveled as a correspondent for the Japanese newspaper Jiji shipō2 and, as all correspondents and artists allowed to go to front, he came under the direct supervision and censorship of the military.3
He was assigned to the Second Army during their invasion of the Liaodong peninsula and subsequent capturing of Port Arthur.

Upon his dispatch, Asai, extremely supportive of his nation's war efforts, as were all the war reporters and artists, stated his mission as to "depict the real situation in the army and...paint what words do not well attain so as to compensate for the deficiencies in historical records for later times."4 

While using Western-style artistic devices to bring great realism to his sketches, his work "provided almost idyllic views of the soldiers..."5

After returning to Japan in 1895, Asai painted a number of war-themed works including Search after the Battle of Port Arthur and Captain Higuchi Rescuing a Child, both pictured below.

Displayed the following year at the Fourth Domestic Industrial Exposition and the Seventh Exhibition of the Meiji Art Association (Meiji Bijustsukai), the composition [Search after the Battle of Port Arthur, shown on the right] shows Japanese soldiers making their way past a fallen Chinese man - now a grim reminder of the reported Japanese atrocities against Chinese civilians.  Another, similarly colored oil painting [Captain Higuchi Rescuing a Child] dating from 1895 documents the return by Captain Higuchi, the commander of the Sixth Brigade and one of Japan's war heroes, of a Chinese child whom he had rescued from the battlefield at Motianling.6


1 A Much Recorded War: The Russo-Japanese War in History and Imagery, Fredrick A. Sharf, Anne Nishimura Morse, Sebastian Dobson, MFA Publications, 2005, p. 39.
2 Inexorable Modernity: Japan's Grappling With Modernity in the Arts, Hiroshi Nara, Lexington Books, 2007, p. 81-82.
3 Op. cit. A Much Recorded War.
4 Ibid., p. 38.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid., p. 39.


Book Page Details
Note: Kanji titles taken from table of contents and from annotations on sketches.  English translations and descriptions are my own.

 


  preface written by Asai Ch
ū

table of contents for volumes 1 and 2 


 table of contents for volumes 3 and 4

旅順 掩撃
Surprise attack at Port Arthur (November 21, 1894)

 
水師營南方の高地旅順
Southern high ground at Port Arthur
 
戦争後の旅順市街
Streets after the battle at Port Arthur
 
土城孑の露營

 
旅順の敗兵金州?凍死す
Soldiers froze to death at Jinzhou Bay and Port Arthur

 

 



Book Details

 IHL Catalog  #873
 Title/Description  Some Sketches of the Japan-China War (Jūsei Gakō 従征画稿 or 從征畫稿),
Volume 4 (第4集)
 Artist
 Asai Chū (1856-1907)
 Signature
 drawings are signed C. Asai.
 Seal  unsealed
 Publication Date  September 23, 1895; Printed on Meiji 28th year, 9th month, 17th day (as shown in colophon)
 Edition  
 Publisher  Shinyōdō 信陽堂 (as shown in colophon)
 Carver  
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  good - toning to front cover with minor paper loss; the interior pages are largely clean with most pages having minor paper loss on the corners and minor toning; the book is unbound
 Miscellaneous  Asai is credited in the colophon with being the writer.
 Genre  ehon 絵本, senso-e
 Format  
 H x W Paper  10 3/8 x 15 in. (26.4.8 x 38.1 cm)
 Collections This Book  National Diet Library JP番号 40070265
 Reference Literature  Society and the State in Interwar Japan, Elise K. Tipton, Psychology Press, Oct 2, 1997, p. 71; Inexorable Modernity: Japan's Grappling With Modernity in the Arts, Hiroshi Nara, Lexington Books, 2007, p. 81-82; A Much Recorded War: The Russo-Japanese War in History and Imagery, Fredrick A. Sharf, Anne Nishimura Morse, Sebastian Dobson, MFA Publications, 2005.
last revision:
12/9/2018
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