Friday, 7 July 2017

Ken Hoshino


As it is Urushibara week, I offer this post on the scholar and dealer, Ken Hoshino, as my contribution. Hoshino was born in Japan but  left in 1898 to study at Columbia University in  New York City. Following graduation, he then moved to London where he eventually set up a business selling prints on Chancery Lane.


He was in business by 1907 when he sold 23 images to the British Museum. The woodblock by Utagawa Yotohiro (top) was one of them and the image of fighting during the Sino-Japanese War by Gessa  c1904  (below) was another. In between them  there is a 1912 advert from the Froebel Society Journal for the popular bird and flower prints. (I await identification  and I am not  going to put much money on Koson).


Hoshino's London career came to an end shortly afterwards. He fell ill and returned to Japan, leaving the business in the hands of a British employee who ran it until the end of the first war, when Ken's nephew, Hiroshi, came to London and instead of selling prints, imported Japanese celluloid toys, which were passed on to East London traders at considerable profit. Such is life.

It was this later period that is perhaps of most interest to Modern Printmakers. In 1910, William Giles produced a colour print of Stonehenge (below) based on a series of drawings he had made and in its turn, this became the basis for a colour woodcut by Urushibara, or, rather, a series of colour woodcuts where the Japanese artist built on the variants Giles himself had made. The whole process for Giles had been a complex one of selection where many of the esoteric overtones of the sketches and etchings he made, were removed.

Urushibara's images were made some time around 1912 or so. Many are signed and are quite clearly colour woodcuts, but at some point at least two different images were published by Ken Hoshino and Co. According to the Japanese Gallery the Hoshino Stonehenge print they had for sale was a lithograph. It had a chop-mark like the one you see here and an inscription (see below)  but no signature.  I have never seen one of these Hoshino prints, so I am  not going to go in for any guesswork or conjecture. It's  interesting all the same to see Urushibara taking a commercial approach (as his old employers did in Tokyo) at a stage where he was beginning to make prints of his own. It was not untill 1920 that The bamboo vase, his first truly independent colour woodcut, was first exhibited in London. It was a long apprenticeship but there is a process here, I think, and an acute one.


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