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Braving the Bitter Cold, Our Troops Setup Camp at Yingkou

 

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Braving the Bitter Cold, Our Troops Setup Camp at Yingkou

by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1895



IHL Cat. #100

IHL Cat. #107

About This Print

Soldiers and medical personnel are depicted gathered around campfires outside the tents of a Red Cross field hospital, anticipating the arrival of the wounded, in an 1895 print by Kobayashi Kiyochika, Braving the Bitter Cold, Our Troops Setup Camp at Yingkou

This print is usually seen printed as a dark night scene (IHL cat. 107) rather than as the illuminated scene (IHL cat. 100).  The same blocks were used for both prints.  The snow effect for both prints was hand applied.

Source: Impressions of the Front, Woodcuts of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-95, Shunpei Okamoto, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1983, p. 9
The most effective of Kiyochika's Sino-Japanese war prints are night scenes in which one or more sources of light pick out lonely silhouettes.   In the right-hand panel of this print of a bivouac in snow, one man kneels before a fire, which illuminates him, while another, his back to us, is a mere silhouette in shades of gray flecked with falling snowflakes.  In the central panel, a mounted soldier, muffled against the cold, turns his head to the fire, and his profile is caught in the light.  In the left-hand panel, a distant group of figures stands around another fire, their solitariness emphasized by the great area of blackness between them and the man on the horse, but their comradeship suggested by the light they share.  Perhaps because it does not report on a particular event or the deeds of a specific heroic soldier, this one of Kiyochika's most affecting triptychs.

Source: In Battle's Light: Woodblock Prints of Japan's Early Modern Wars, Elizabeth de Sabato Swinton, Worcester Art Museum, 1991, P. 49
The Red Cross flag on the tent suggests the heavy casualties sustained by the Japanese while advancing across heavily mined open land in the campaign for the port of Yingkou (in modern Liaoning province near Gaiping).  Because of these losses, the Japanese army halted and waited for night.  Two feet of snow covered the ground and the cold was severe, but the Japanese took Yingkou by March 9, 1895.

Heavily dependent on traditional woodblock styles, which use pattern-making areas of color to define form, the artist uses light from separate campfires as well as the grain of the woodblock to convey the isolation of the troops in the cold and swirling snow.  Kiyochika differs from his predecessors, however, in his ability to integrate the figures into the pictorial space by enveloping them in an atmosphere created by the modulation of black ink tones.

Attack on Yingkou

Source: Impressions of the Front, Woodcuts of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-95, Shunpei Okamoto, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1983, p. 32
In early March 1895, the Japanese fleet started bombarding the coastal batteries of Yingkou, a vital seaport thirty-two miles southwest of Newchang.  The flat land approach was mined and provided no cover for the advancing Japanese, who were also constantly shelled from the citadel.  After losing many men, the Japanese halted and waited for the night’s cover.  Although the bitter cold became more severe in the night, the engineering corps, in a heroic effort, managed to clear the approach of trip wires and disarm the mines.  The stronghold was conquered from March 7 to 9.

Print Details
 IHL Catalog
 #100 and #107
 Title or Description  Braving the Bitter Cold, Our Troops Setup Camp at Yingkou (Eikô no genkan o okashite waga gun roei o haru no zu 冒営口厳寒我軍張露営之図)
 Series  
 Artist  Kiyochika Kobayashi (1847-1915)
 Signature  Kiyochika
 Seal  kiyo (to) and chika (bottom)
 Publication Date  1895 (Meiji 28)
 Publisher  Matsuki Heikichi (松木平吉) proprietor of Daikokuya, Nihonbashi-ku
 Edition  unknown, but likely first editions for both
 Engraver  Seikodo
 Impression  #100: excellent
 #107: excellent
 Colors  #100: excellent
 #107: excellent
 Condition #100: good - panels joined together, backed, slightly soiled, a vertical center fold on the middle panel; left margin (with inscription) trimmed
 #107: good - panels joined together, backed, slightly soiled, a vertical center fold on the middle panel; left margin (with inscription) partially trimmed
 Genre  ukiyo-e - senso-e (Sino-Japanese War); Meiji era
 Miscellaneous  #107 provenance was identified as from the Robert O. Muller estate.   "Made in Japan" stamp verso.
 Format  vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper
 #100: 14 1/4 x 27 3/8 in. (36.2 x 69.5 cm)
 #107: 13 7/8 x 27 3/4 in. (35.2 x 70.5 cm)
 H x W Image
 
 LiteratureImpressions of the Front, Woodcuts of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-95, Shunpei Okamoto, Philadelphia Museum of Art, p. 32, pl. 44; Japan at the Dawn of the Modern Age – Woodblock Prints from the Meiji Era, Louise E. Virgin, Donald Keene, et. al., MFA Publications, 2001, p. 96, pl. 48In Battle's Light: Woodblock Prints of Japan's Early Modern Wars, Elizabeth de Sabato Swinton, Worcester Art Museum, 1991, p. 49, pl. 22; Shinseimen o hiraita Meiji ukiyoe ten: Kiyochika, Yoshitoshi, Kunichika: Takahashi korekushon / [shusai Nihon Ukiyoe Kyokai, Rikkā Bijutsukan, 1973 (Catalog of an exhibition held at Rikka Bijutsukan, July 3-Aug 12, 1973, fig. 81, 82.
Collections This Print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 2000.419; Harvard University Museums 1944.5.18.1,.2,.3; Philadelphia Museum of Art 1976-75-122; Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama (ref. no. not provided);
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum 1944.5.18


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