The Kuchi-e Tradition - Kuchi-e prints are woodblock frontispiece illustrations used in the publication of Japanese novels and magazines around the turn of the 20th century. Most kuchi-e prints were illustrations of bijin and continued the tradition of idealized beauties in Japanese art. The subjects, however, have a decidedly Meiji era feel about them and reflect the artistic movement towards more western design. Kuchi-e prints typically have one or two folds because of their use.
Much interest has been generated in the subject since the publication in 2000 of Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada's book, "Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints: Reflections of Meiji Culture." Kuchi-e prints have become highly sought after and collected by the serious collector.
Comments - Dramatic illustration for the 1896 novel "Insurance Girl" (Hoken musume), a tale about the sickly young woman Asako whose father had purchased a large insurance policy on her life because of her illness. Her father committed business fraud and fled, leaving the beauty and her mother saddled with his debts. One day when the fire from a neighboring house spread to their own, Asako thrust the insurance policy into her mother's hand, then ran into the burning house, sacrificing herself so that her mother could receive the settlement to pay off the debts. Here, the distraught beauty appears in an inset, looking down with a worried expression, her cheek resting on her clasped hands as she contemplates her future. Behind her, flames and smoke sweep across the home, scattering red coals and ashes. This image appears on page 72 in Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada's recent book, "Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints: Reflections of Meiji Culture." Beautifully detailed with burnishing on the hair and delicate embossing on the lavender collar.
Artist - Tomioka Eisen (1864 - 1905)
Image Size - 8 5/8" x 11 1/8" + top margin as shown
Condition - This print with nice color and detail as shown. Vertical fold. Slight paper remnants on reverse at edges from previous mounting. A few creases. Please see photos for details.