Chikanobu Yoshu, Mitate Jo and Uba, Takasago


Artist: Chikanobu Yoshu (1838-1912)
Title: Mitate Jo and Uba
Date: c.1890
Size: (L)35.0 x 23.5, (C)35.0 x 23.4, (R)35.0 x 23.5 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

This design is based on one of the most popular Noh theatre plays called 'Takasago'. The story tells of an aged man and woman, Jo and Uba. They fell in love when they were young and lived a long life together. Such was their devotion to each other that even in death, their spirits then went to reside in two ancient pine trees, symbols of longevity. On moonlit nights, they returned to human form to rake pine needles on the shore.

Chikanobu has transformed the old couple Jo (with rake) and Uba (with broom) into a young, modern, fashionable couple on the beach. Turtles, cranes, sun, and a Takasago pine tree add to this pleasing genre scene with longevity overtones.

Chikanobu Yoshu

Chikanobu Yoshu was a woodblock print artist from the end of the 19th century. 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 war and rebellion. Born into a samurai family in Echigo province, Chikanobu became one of the final, great, ukiyo-e artists aiming to preserve the traditional culture of Japan at a time when the country was becoming rapidly modernised. As a child, he studied Kano style painting. When he moved to Tokyo he studied print design first at the studio of Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1797-1861) and later on at that of Kunisada I Utagawa (1786–1865).

The end of the Edo period (1603-1868) and the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) brought a rapid influx of Western values and technologies that influenced many artists of this time, including Chikanobu. As a result, he developed a distinctive personal style blending a close adherence to the traditional technique of ukiyo-e, and occasional western imagery. He designed prints rooted in traditional myths and legends but also kaika-e, prints that documented Japan's modernization, the Emperor Meiji and the imperial court's promotion of that modernization.

Even though Chikanobu’s prints showcase a variety of subjects, due to the wealth of his beauties and court ladies works, it is believed that the customs and events of the imperial family were his favourite subject. Out of these prints, the most well-known series is probably ‘The Inner Palace of Chiyoda’ (‘Chiyoda no O-oku’), which depicts the court life in the palace of the Tokugawa shogunate. Influenced by the rapid changes happening in Japanese society following the Meiji restoration, Chikanobu also produced beauty prints showing ladies in Western clothing, as opposed to kimono. 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 behaviour for the future.

More Information
Print FormatTriptych
ArtistChikanobu Yoshu
SubjectBeauty & Female, Male & Female, Kimono Design
Dimensions(L)35.0 x 23.5, (C)35.0 x 23.4, (R)35.0 x 23.5 cm
Condition ReportColour partly running, light wear and soiling.