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Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912)

Prints in Collection


Blessings Inside from the series Eastern Customs: Enumerated Blessings
Blessings Inside
from the series
Eastern Customs: Enumerated Blessings, 1887 or 1889

IHL Cat. #2211
Crawling from the series Eastern Customs: Enumerated Blessings
from the series
Eastern Customs: Enumerated Blessings, 1889

IHL Cat. #2209

Fragrance from the series Eastern Customs: Enumerated Blessings
from the series
Eastern Customs: Enumerated Blessings, 1889

IHL Cat. #2208 

Spraying Water
from the series
Eastern Customs: Enumerated Blessings, 1889

IHL Cat. #2207 

Allegiance of the Entire Nation from the series Eastern Customs: Enumerated Blessings
Allegiance of the Entire Nation from the series
Eastern Customs: Enumerated Blessings, 1889

IHL Cat. #2206

Blessed with Children from the series Eastern Customs: Enumerated Blessings
Blessed with Many Children
from the series
Eastern Customs: Enumerated Blessings, 1890

IHL Cat. #2210

Biographical Data


Yōshū Chikanobu 楊洲周延 (1838-1912)
Yōshū Chikanobu was a leading artist1 of the Meiji period (1868-1912), a time when Japan saw the reinstatement of the emperor as ruler and was undergoing rapid westernization.  He was one of the most prolific woodblock print artists of this period, working with both traditional subjects, such as actors, courtesans, scenes of famous sites, beautiful women, and with topical subjects, such as the Satsuma Rebellion (1877) and the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895.)2  Chikanobu used the flat planes and decorative patterning of the ukiyo-e tradition to striking effect, adding brilliant colors, especially reds, purples, and blues to his compositions.  He worked in a style that often reflected western conventions in art.

1 Along with Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892), Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) and Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900).
2 There is speculation that due to the weak composition and effect in some of the Sino-Japanese War prints attributed to Chikanobu that a number of them may have been produced by his students rather than by the artist himself.

Artist Names

In addition to Yōshū Chikanobu (楊洲周延) he used the artist names () Ikkakusai (一鶴斎), Yōshūsai (楊洲斎), Hashimoto Chikanobu (橋本周延) and Toyohara Chikanobu(豊原周延).


Source: Chikanobu: Modernity and Nostalgia in Japanese Prints, Bruce A. Coats, Hotei Publishing, 2006

Little is known about Chikanobu’s early life.  Born in Niigata Prefecture as Hashimoto Naoyoshi (橋本直義), he was the eldest of two children.  His father was Hashimoto Naohiro (died 1879) who was a lower level retainer of the Sakakibara daimyo.   As a youth Chikanobu trained in the martial arts and in the late 1860s fought in the Boshin Civil War (1868-1869) with the Shōgitai, supporting the Tokugawa shogun’s military government against those seeking to install a modern government under the auspices of the emperor.  In 1868, he was captured during the fighting, but was let go when it was confirmed he was a well-known artist. 

As a child, he showed a talent for painting and he trained in a private studio teaching Kano School painting.  He first studied print design with disciples of Keisai Eisen (1790-1848) and then around 1852, at the age of fourteen or fifteen, with Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi (1797-1861).   During his time at Kuniyoshi’s studio Chikanobu may have known Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892), who joined the studio in 1850.  In about 1855 or 1856, Chikanobu moved to the studio of Utagawa Kunisada I (1786–1865).  Coats states that Chikanobu’s earliest works were influenced by Kunisada’s style, “but he moves away from the Kunisada figural models by the 1880s.  Over time Chikanobu’s women become taller, thinner and more graceful in their gestures, establishing a new canon of beauty for the mid-Meiji period that reflected a revival of interest in prints of a hundred years earlier.”1

In about 1862, Chikanobu began working with Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900) studying actor portraiture, which Kunichika, his contemporary, was famous for.  Later on Chikanobu and Kunichika would compete in designing actor prints for the same kabuki plays, but Chikanobu would go on to an expanded range of subject matter.

In 1871 Chikanobu established himself in Tokyo as a woodblock print artist, designing prints of familiar subjects such as the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters, scenic views and actor prints.  In tracing the evolution of Chikanobu's actor prints, Coats writes, “…he moved away from the Utagawa school models he had been taught by Kunisada and Kunichika.  Chikanobu’s actor prints changed from being posters in the 1870-80s, like others produced in the Utagawa school tradition, to compositions in the late 1890s that are individual works distinctly in his own style.”

In the mid-1870s, Chikanobu, like many other artists, designed kaika-e, prints that documented Japan's modernization and the Emperor Meiji and the imperial court's promotion of that modernization.

In 1877, Chikanobu would document, in over 45 triptych prints, the events around the Satsuma Rebellion, a short-lived samurai insurrection, led by Saigo Takamori (1827-1877).

In 1884, Chikanobu created at least ten triptychs on the attempted assassination of Japan's representative in Korea, Hababusa Yoshitada and the burning of the Japanese legation.  These prints, issued very shortly after the incident, brought him "enormous success."2

By the late 1880s he and much of his audience were becoming dismayed by the rapid changes taking place in Tokyo and were increasingly nostalgic about the lost world of the shogun. Throughout the 1890s, Chikanobu produced single sheet prints, diptychs and triptychs, which promoted traditional values and highlighted aspects of Japanese culture that were being forgotten.  He created prints about filial piety and neighborhood festivals to provide an alternative to what many saw as the deterioration of Japanese society caused by imported ideas and modern methods. Chikanobu's last works in the early years of the 20th century featured brave samurai and heroic women of Japan's past, models of appropriate behavior for the future. By 1905, his print production had dwindled. 

Chikanobu died at the age of seventy-five from stomach cancer in 1912.

1 Chikanobu: Modernity and Nostalgia in Japanese Prints, Bruce A. Coats, Hotei Publishing, 2006, p. 16.
The Sino-JapaneseWar, Nathan Chaikin, self-published, 1983, p. 34.


The following are representative signatures from this collection.  For additional signatures see the website http://www.chikanobu.com/signature.asp

 Yōshūsai Chikanobu with Yöshü seal, 1877

ūsai Chikanobu hitsu with unidentified Toshidama seal, 1877

Ōju Yōsh
ū ga,

Yōshū Chikanobu hitsu, 1881

Yōshū Chikanobu hitsu with Toshidama seal, 1887

Yōshū Chikanobu hitsu with Toshidama seal, 1890

ū Chikanobu, 1894

ū Chikanobu with unread seal, 1902

Print Series

Chiyoda Inner Palace (Chiyoda no Ooku)1895-1896
Chikanobu's series of forty prints depicting the lives of the ladies of the Chiyoda Inner Palace is considered by many his masterpiece.  For additional details on this series, see the following print pages:

A List of Major Print Series
Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyohara_Chikanobu

Series in the ōban yoko-e (landscape) format, which were usually then folded cross-wise to produce an album:

 Date# Prints
 1880 12Twelve Months at Home with the Royal Ladies
kanke jūni kagetsu no uchi (冠化十二ヶ月の内)
  12The Education of Beautiful Women in Edo throughout the Whole Year
kyōiku azuma bijin jūni kagetsu zen (教育東美人會十二ヶ月全)
 1898 The Tale of the Heike
heike monogatari (平家物語)
 1901 15An Annal of Eastern Pastimes
azuma fūzoku mokuroku (東風俗目録)
 30Edo Brocade
edo nishiki (江戸錦)
 1905 Childhood Flowers
yōchi hana (幼稚)
 1906 4Educational Pictorial Album of History
kyōiku rekishi gafu (教育歴史画布)

At least one series was published in chuban yoko-e format:

 Date# Prints
 1882 An Instruction Manual Depicting the Two Heads of Good and Evil
zen'naku ryōtō kyōkun kagami (善悪両頭教訓鑑

and there is one series, attributed to Chikanobu, in chuban tate-e format:

 Date # Prints
  probably a hikifuda (advertising circular) for cloth/clothing, published by Tōkyō hatsubaimoto (Tokyo sales agency)
miyako no hana iro (都の花色)

In addition there is at least one harimaze-e series in yatsugiri format:

 Date # Prints
 1879 Contrasting the Flowers of Tokyo
Tōkyō hana kurabe (東京花竸)

as well as one harimaze-e series in koban yoko-e  format:

 Date# Prints
 1882 A Mirror of Valor in our Country
honcho buyū kagame (本朝武勇鑑)

A partial list of his single panel ōban tate-e series includes:

 Date # Prints
 1877 Contrasting Modern Women
imayō bijin kurabe (今様美人竸)
 1877 Heroines of Kagoshima
kagoshima yūfu den (鹿児島勇婦伝)
 1878 The History of the Imperial Line of Our Country
honchō kōtō ki (本朝皇統記)
 1879-1881 Compositions in the Eastern Style for the Four Seasons
azuma sugata shiki no uta
 1880 Illustrations of Unforgettably Famous Military Commanders
ei mei bushō no zu (英銘武将之図)
 1880 Alluring Flowers as Beautiful Women
hana sugata bijin sama
 1881 Reflections of the Modern Woman
imayō bijin kagami (今様美人鏡)
 1881 Reflections of the Modern Woman
imayō bijin kagami (今様美人鏡)
 1882 Hit Plays with Famous Actors
tō kyōgen homare no wazogi (當狂言名譽俳優)
 1882 Contrasting Views of Famous Places of Tokyo
tōkyō meisho kurabe (東京名所竸)
 Songs of Enlightenment and Education
kaika kyōiku mari uta (開化教育鞠唄)
 1883-1884 Honorable Flowers Blooming in Different Colors
meiyo iro no sakiwake (名譽色咲分)
 1884-1886 50Snow, Moon, Flower
setsu gekka (雪月花)
 1885 A Chronicle of the Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and the Taira
gempei seisuiki (源平盛衰記)
 1886  Brocade of the East, A Contrast of Day and Night
azuma nishiki chūya kurabe (東錦晝夜竸)
 1886-1887 A Brief Account of the Tokugawa Lineage
Tokugawa kakei ryakki (徳川家系略記)
 1887 A full-length mirror contest this spring
tōshun sugagtami kyō (當春姿見竸)
 1888 8Eight Views of Tokyo Today
imayō tōkyō hakkei (今様東京八景)
 1889-1890  Customs of the Capital displayed by Homonyms of the word fuku
azuma fūzoku fuku tsukushi (東風俗福つくし)
 1890 12 Annual Events and Customs in the Capital
azuma fūzoku nenjū gyōji (東風俗年中行事)
 1890-1891 24A Contrasting Parody of the Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Devotion
nijūshi kō mitate e awase (二十四孝見立画合)
 1890-1891 Stories by Bakin
Bakin chojutsu (馬琴著述)
 1890-1892 Daydreams by Magic Lantern
gentō shashin kurabe (幻燈寫心竸)
 1891 A Collection of Scenes of Mt. Fuji
fugaku shū (富嶽集)
 1892 Mirror of the East
azuma kagami (東鑑)
 1893-1894 12A Contrasting Parody of the Zodiac
mitate jūnishi (見立十二支)
 1895 Reduced Drawings of Western-style Hairdos for Women
fujin sokuhatsu shukuzu (婦人束髪縮圖)
 1895  Comparing Dramas to Flowers of the Four Seasons
shiki no hana kyōgen mitate (四季の花狂言見立)
The East
azuma (あづま)
 1896-189850A Mirror of the Ages
jidai kagami (時代鑑)
 1897-189836Truly Beautiful Women
shin bijin (真美人)
 1897-1902 Famous Places of Tokyo
tōkyō meisho (東京名所)
  Chronicles of the Glories of the Satsuma Revolt
kagoshima eimenden (鹿兒島英名傅)

Two of his well-known ōban tate-e diptych series are:

 Date # Prints
 1893 Very Tall Stories about Famous Women of Japan
nihon meijo to (日本名女吐)
 1897-1898 An Exposition of Beautiful Women in Scenic Places
meisho bijin kai (名所美人合)

This is only a partial list of his triptych series:

 Date # Prints
 1885 Sands of Edo - Annual Events
Edo sunago nenjū gyōji (江戸砂子年中行事)
 1885 Scenes from a Chrysanthemum Festival
Chōyō no zu (重陽之圗) 
 1887  Scenes of Various Women's Ceremonies
Fujin shoreshiki no zu (婦人諸禮式の図)
 1889 Daily Life in Edo Throughout Twelve Months
edo fūzoku jūni kagetsu no uchi (江戸風俗十二ヶ月の内)
 1889 Looking into the Past: The Pride of the East
onko azuma no hana (温故東の花)
 1892 A Collection of West Country Elegance
saigoku ga shū (西国雅集)
 1892  Three Famous views of Japan
nihon sankei no zu (日本三景の内)
 1892 Customs of Old Japan
yamato fūzoku (倭風俗
 1894-1896 40Court ladies of Chiyoda Palace (The Imperial Ladies' Quarters at Chiyoda Palace or The Customs of the Inner Palace of the Chiyoda Castle)
chiyoda no o-oku (千代田の大奥)
 1896 Ladies of the Tokugawa period
Tokugawa jidai kifujin (徳川時代貴婦人)
 1898 Chiyoda Palace: Outside the Walls
chiyoda no on-omote (千代田の御表
 1898 Handbook of Ladies' Etiquette
joreishiki ryaku zu (女禮式略の図)
 1898 Then and Now
ima to mukashi (今とむかし)
 1898 Verses of the Middle Rank
take no hitofushi (竹乃一節)
 1884 A Report of the Korean Disturbance
chōsenhen hō (朝鮮變報)
  Inside Snow, Moon, Flower
settsu gekka no uchi (雪月花の内)
  Complete Lessons of Japanese History
nihon reikishi kyōkun jin (日本歴史教訓尽)

Recent Exhibitions 2007-2008

Chikanobu: Modernity and Nostalgia in Japanese Prints

Source:http://collegerelations.vassar.edu/2007/2358/ and http://www.denison.edu/campuslife/museum/chikanobu.html

Thisexhibition, composed of nearly 60 prints produced during the Meiji period(1868-1912), explores the 30-year career of the popular woodblock designer Yoshu Chikanobu. The exhibition was organized by Bruce A. Coats, a Professor of Art History and the Humanities at Scripps College, in conjunction with colleagues at several liberal arts colleges in the United States. Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the exhibition opened in August at Scripps College, followed by showings at Carleton College, Vassar, Denison University, Boston University, DePauw University, and the International Christian University in Tokyo. An extensive catalogue by curator Bruce Coats shares the exhibition's name, and features additional essays by Allen Hockley, Kyoko Kurita, and Joshua S. Mostow (Hotei Publishing).

"The Obiturary of Yōshū Chikanobu" Miyako Shinbun (Capital City Newspaper), October 2, 1912

trans. by Kyoko Iriye Selden, Senior Lecturer, Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University, ret'd.

Yōshū Chikanobu, who represented in nishiki-e the Great Interior of the Chiyoda Castle and was famous as a master of bijin-ga, had retired to Shimo-Ōsaki at the foot of Goten-yama five years ago and led an elegant life away from the world, but suffered from stomach cancer starting this past June, and finally died on the night of September 28th at the age of seventy-five.

His real name being Hashimoto Naoyoshi, he was a retainer of the Sakakibara family of Takata domain in Echigo province. After the collapse of the Tokugawa Shogunate, he joined the Shōgitai and fought in the Battle of Ueno. Thereafter he fled to Hakodate, fought in the Battle of the Goryōkaku under the leadership of Enomoto Takeaki and Ōshima Keisuke, and achieved fame for his bravery. But following the Shōgitai’s surrender, he was handed over to the Takata domain. In the eighth year of Meiji, with the intention of making a living in the way that he was fond of, went to the capital and lived in Yushima-Tenjin town. He became an artist for the Kaishin Shinbun12, and on the side, produced many nishikie pieces. Regarding his artistic background: when he was younger he studied the Kanō school of painting, but later switched to ukiyo-e and studied with a disciple of Keisai Eizen; and next joining the school of Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi, called himself Yoshitsuru. After Kuniyoshi’s death, he studied with Kunisada. Later he studied nigao-e with Toyohara Kunichika, and called himself Isshunsai Chikanobu. He also referred to himself as Yōshū.
Among his disciples were Yōsai Nobukazu (楊斎 延一), Gyokuei (楊堂玉英)(Yōdō Gyokuei as a uchiwa-e painter), and several others. Gyokuei produced Kajita Hanko. Since only Nobukazu now is in good health, there is no one to succeed to Chikanobu’s bijin-ga, and thus Edo-e, after the death of Kunichika, has perished with Chikanobu. It is most regrettable.

1 the party organ of the Rikken Kaishinto, the Constitutional Reform Party.

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