Toyohara Chikanobu (1838-1912)
AKA: Hashimoto Toyohara
Biography of Toyohara Chikanobu
Toyohara Chikanobu is an important Meiji artist and a student of Toyohara Kunichika. His original name was Hashimoto. He took both the last name and the second part, chika, of his master’s first name – following an old tradition of the way an artist’s name was inherited from master to student. He usually signed his prints usually with Yoshu Chikanobu or Yoshu Chikanobu hitsu.
Chikanobu’s favorite subjects include historical and mythological legends, histories from Japan’s past, and genre scenes with women and children. The percentage of triptychs among the prints created by the artist is higher than any other artist of the Meiji period.
His best known series are triptychs showing court life in and around the Chiyoda Palace. Like Chikanobu’s contemporary, Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, his print themes concentrate on the history and traditional values of old Japan. These series must be seen against the background of an era when Japan was thriving to adopt Western technology and civilization without any criticism. The Japanese society then regarded their own traditional customs as something of low value that had to be replaced by Western values as soon as possible.
Chikanobu prints are an excellent buy. His early series are kept close in the tradition of his ukiyo-emasters and may not be too exciting. But they are good, solid works and show nice details. The later series, mainly his triptychs, are often very interesting in design and more appealing to the Western eyes. They can sometimes become quite valuable.