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Azuma Gorge


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Azuma Gorge

by Kawase Hasui, 1943

IHL Cat. #69

About This Print

Catalog Raisonné Entry

Source: Kawase Hasui; The Complete Woodblock Prints, Kendall Brown, Amy Reigle Newland, Amsterdam, Hotei Publishing, KIT Publishers, 2003, p. 118.

Carved by Agatsuma River, Agatsuma
Gorge shows different scenery each season.
It is particularly spectacular during the
Autumn months with trees aflame with
red, orange and yellow leaves.
Catalogue Raisonné
image and entry
  470 Azuma Gorge
(Azuma kyo)
  Work of 1943
Hasui signature with Kawase Seal
Publisher: Watanabe Shozaburo
Printer: Ono Gintaro
Azuma gorge is on the way to Kusatsu hot spring in Gunma prefecture.

Hasui's "Azuma Gorge" - One Print - Two Dates of Origin?

Source: Ukiyo-e Gallery website, article by Andreas Grund and Thomas Crossland  http://www.ukiyoe-gallery.com/doubledate.htm
Usually a woodblock print carries the date of its creation in its margin, giving us clear proof when the print was designed or the blocks got carved. However, surprisingly we have found an example where one and the same exists in two versions with different dates, in our case "Showa 18" (1943) and "Showa 22" (1947), separated at least by a time span of four years.

 1943 version
 1947 version

The print is by Kawase Hasui and shows the beautiful autumn landscape of the Azuma Gorge, deep blue running water, framed by yellow and red autumn leaves. Narazaki as well as Merritt & Yamada both date this print back into 1943 (Showa 18). Surprisingly the very same print exists in a "later" version (right image). Now it is dated "Showa nijuni nen saku" -- "Made in Showa 22" (1947). The printer seal is not present, only the 6mm round seal gives evidence of the Watanabe publishing house.


The earlier edition (left image) is dated "Showa juhachinen saku" -- "Made in Showa 18" (1943). In addition, a boxed seal of the printer "Suri" Ono Gintaro, one of Watanabe's master printer is stamped onto the margin, furthermore, a round black 6mm Watanabe seal is in the lower left corner within the imprinted area. It is known that Ono's printer seal (known as an "I seal") was in use during and shortly after the War instead of a Watanabe publisher's seal.

The round black 6mm Watanabe seals in the left lower part of both prints are hardly visible against their dark backgrounds.

It is not clear whether for both editions an identical set of blocks was used. The missing of fine strong lines, slightly different coloring schemes makes an exact and reliable comparison very difficult. However, at least we can say that the keyblock and probably some others were the same.

In both cases the keyblock shows a slight damages, e.g., here at the left margin a part of approx. 2mm is missing, an indication that the keyblock for the Showa 18 and Showa 22 edition is the same except for the writing.

The fine details, printed in grey / green seem to be identical, although the block of the Showa 22 edition shows some wear already.
The "registration" of the blocks is poor in both cases.

An Explanation from Shoichiro Watanabe  

Shoichiro Watanabe, the granson of Shozaburo Watanabe and owner of S. Watanabe Color Print Co.,  provided the following explanation via email on why there are two differently "margin-dated" states (1943 and 1947) for this print.

In 1943, S. WATANABE CO. finished the test printings (only a few copies) for this design. As you know, in 1943, toward the end of the World War II, S. WATANABE CO. lacked for the paper and all the materials for printings. In addition, printers had to go to War. So we could not do it at all.

We could make printings of this in 1947 at last, 2 years after WWII. So there are two types of the date (1943 and 1947). Therefore, the prints dated 1943 is quite few.

Although our new "atozuri" (posthumous printing from original blocks) print is dated "Showa 22 nen" (1947), we do say this is dated 1943 the same as in the "Complete (Hasui) Catalogue" by Hotei.

Shoichiro Watanabe

Ono Gintaro Printer Seal

Source: Chris Johannesen of shinhanga.net
A print with the Gintaro seal is eligible to, and typically should, also carry a 6 mm. (Of course there are exceptions.) Some examples depicted in Narazaki with both seals are: N382, N414, N473, N474, N476, N489 to N496, and N498. A number of other prints (including this print) are shown with the Gintaro seal but the image does not clearly reveal a 6 mm -- it might or might not be there.
Some background is useful to know. Gintaro apparently ran the Watanabe shop around the war years, when prints carry his seal. But he would have still been required generally to use Watanabe's 6 mm copyright seal, reintroduced at that time.

The Image - Azuma Gorge or Agatsuma Gorge?

According to Shoichiro Watanabe, "Azuma Gorge is located in Saitama Prefecture and is very small. Agatsuma Gorge is located in Gunma Prefecture (north of Saitama Pref.) and is very big. Hasui had traveled to Agatsuma but not to Azuma. (The note of the "Complete (Hasui) Catalogue" by Hotei Publishing is wrong.)"

Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #69
 Title  Azuma Gorge
 吾妻峡 Azuma kyō
 Catalogue Raisonné  Number 470 (as listed in the Kawase Hasui; The Complete Woodblock Prints)
 Kawase Hasui (1883-1957)
 Seal  Kawase
 Publication Date  1943
 Edition  Likely first edition with publishers 6mm round "A"-type seal printed, and barely visible, in lower left corner.  Print also has the seal of the printer Ono Gintaro in the lower left margin.  (For a full discussion of Watanabe publisher seals see "Watanabe Publisher Marks, Seals and Editions")
 Publisher  Watanabe Shōzaburō
 Watanabe "A"-type seal (in use from approximately 1918-1924 and 1945-1957) reading (in Katakana): 
ワタナベ Watanabe Shōzaburō
 Printer  Ono Gintaro (Suishi Ono Gintaro in lower left margin)
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  excellent - 2 pin holes left margin, pencil notation verso bottom margin "Adzuma Valley in Gumma Pref. By Hasui"
 Miscellaneous  Print is actually of Agatsuma Gorge not Azuma Gorge according to Shoichiro Watanabe, grandson of Sozaburo Watanabe.
 Genre  shin hanga (new prints)
 Format  Oban tate-e
 H x W Paper  14 1/2 x 10 3/8 in. (35.6 x 26.4 cm)
 H x W Image  13 1/8 x 9 1/2 in. (33.3 x 23.8 cm)
 Collections This Print   Cleveland Art Museum 2005.479 (6mm round Watanabe publisher seal visible lower left of image) ; Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art M.2003.67.48 (unspecified edition and no seals can be discerned on thumbnail image of print); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 50.2853 (The following is noted in the entry: "The impression illustrated in Brown is dated 1943 (Shôwa 18), whereas this one is dated 1947 (Shôwa 22) and lacks the publisher's mark; but otherwise the blocks appear to be identical."); The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo P00138-117 (unspecified edition with no visible publisher's seal, but the printer seal of printer Ono Gintaro is visible in lower left margin.)
 Reference Literature Catalogue Raisonné: Kawase Hasui; The Complete Woodblock Prints, Kendall Brown, Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing, KIT Publishers, 2003, ISBN: 9074822460, - pg. 528, pl. 470
Kawase Hasui and His Contemporaries: The Shin Hanga (New Print) Movement in Landscape Art, p. 74, pl 92.
Visions of Japan: Kawase Hasui's Masterpieces, Kendall H. Brown, Hotei Publishing, 2004, p. 117, pl 81