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Sawamura Tosshi in the role of Matsudaira Yoshimine from the series Sketches from the Stage

Sakamoto Hanjirō (1882-1969)

 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Sawamura Tosshi in the role of Matsudaira Yoshimine

from the series Sketches from the Stage

by Sakamoto Hanjirō, 1911

Sakamoto Hanjirō (1882-1969)

IHL Cat. #2276

About This Print

This print by Sakamoto Hanjirō is one of six he created for the twelve print series Sketches from the Stage, conceived of by Yamamoto Kanae (1882-1946) who also contributed six prints. In this print we see the actor Sawamura Tosshi VII (1860-1926) in the role of 松平吉峯, which can be read Matsudaira Yoshimine. All of the prints in the series were of actors appearing at the Imperial Theater (Teikoku Gekijō), which had opened in March 1911. 

For a brief profile of the actor depicted see the article The Kabuki Actor on this site.

About the Series "Sketches from the Stage"

Source: Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975, Helen Merritt, University of Hawaii Press, 1992, p. 123.
Yamamoto Kanae also [in addition to Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958)] tried to revitalize ukiyo-e. He focused on actor prints, however, rather than bijin-ga. In order to have an organization to produce and distribute the prints he created the Tokyo Print Club in 1911. He presented the club in an advertisement in Hōsun which said that the club would offer creative criticism of hanga exhibitions and publish a monthly magazine. As it turned out, since most of the Hōsun group had left Tokyo, Yamamoto Kanae and Sakamoto Hanjirō were the only members of the club. Kanae’s first step was to photograph actors in performance. He and Sakamoto then drew actors from life at the new Imperial Theater which had recently opened on the moat opposite the Imperial Palace. Edward Seidensticker has described the Imperial Theater where Hanjirō and Kanae sketched as a “highly Gallic structure of marble, hung with tapestries and provided with seventeen hundred Western-style seats.”

The prints in their final form were in three sets, each consisting of two prints by Yamamoto Kanae and two by Sakamoto Hanjirō. They were published for the performances in June, July and September of 1911 with the title Sōga butai sugata (Stage Figure Sketches). Each set, in a folder which gave the name of the series and the names of the artists on the front in French and on the back in Japanese, sold for thirty sen. Kanae promised that figures from thirty-four new plays in Tokyo would be issued from time to time, but only twelve prints were produced before they abandoned the project.

The prints represent the leading actors of the day in roles in kyōgen or plays. Except for one large head by Kanae, all are full-length figures. Some have slight background detail, but in each print the focus is primarily on the actor and costume. In a letter to Nagahara Kōtarō, his former teacher at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, Kanae commented that Nagahara might laugh bitterly at the prints, but he himself had been dissatisfied with the usual “art-type” postcards and tried to make money, unsuccessfully as it turned out, by appealing to the stylish audience of the modern plays.

Ichikawa Komazō  as Anewa Heiji is representative of Sakamoto Hanjirō’s prints in the Sōga butai sugata series. As in ukiyo-e, the name and role of the actor are in cartouches, and the figure and background are presented as large flat areas without shading. The only suggestions of depth come from the placement of the feet, the swords behind the body, and the legs on the stool.

The planning of these prints was a significant step in Hanjirō’s career because prior to this series he had worked entirely in the Western manner as he had learned as a student in the institute of Taiheiyōgaka… It was not until the Sōga butai sugata series that he first worked with flat areas of color and discovered the approach to both painting and prints that was to characterize his mature work.

The Twelve Prints Issued of June, July and September Performances at the Imperial Theater
山本鼎6枚 (Yamamoto Kanae)
坂本繁二郎6枚 (Sakamoto Hanjirō)

Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #2276
Sawamura Tosshi in the role of Matsudaira Yoshimine [reading of the character being played 松平吉峯 is unconfirmed)
澤村訥子 松平吉峯
 Series  Sketches from the Stage (also seen translated as Stage Figure Sketches)
 草画舞臺姿 [草画舞台姿] Sōga-butai sugata
 Sakamoto Hanjirō (1882-1969)
artist's seal
 Publication Date
 Edition  first and only
東京版画倶楽部 發行 Tokyo Hanga Club [Marks: pub. ref. 368]
 Carver  Yamamoto Kanae 山本鼎 (1882-1946)
 Printer  Yamamoto Kanae 山本鼎 (1882-1946)
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  good - toning throughout
 Genre  sosaku hanga (creative print); moku hanga
 Format  chuban
 H x W Paper  10 3/8 x 7 5/16 in. (26.4 x 18.6 cm)
 H x W Image  8 11/16 x 5 7/8 in. (22.1 x 14.9 cm)
 Collections This Print  Waseda University Cultural Resource Database 201-430 and 201-437; Artizon Museum 24858, - Chuo City, Tokyo (image not shown)
 Reference Literature
last revision:
6/1/2020 created