Igawa Sengai: Dogfight between Japanese and Chinese Planes in 1937 (Sold)

  • Sold.

Artist: Igawa Sengai (1876-1961)
Title: Two Brave Human Bombs of Arawashi Troop of Our Navy: Yano First Class Pilot and Shinmino Third Class Pilot (Waga kaigun arawashi-tai no nikudan ni-yushi: Yano itto-koku-heiso, Shinmino santo- koku-heiso) 我海軍荒鷲隊の肉弾二勇士 矢野一等航空兵曹・親美野三等航空兵曹
Date: 1937, August

Sengai depicts a fiercely fighting Japanese navy fighter aircraft engaged in a dogfight against two Chinese airplanes, of which one has been shot and and is spiraling down, on fire in the background. The Japanese aircraft has been damaged, but the second Chinese plane seems to be on fire and is also heading for the ground. The two named pilots, Yano and Shinmino, belonged to the Arawashi (”Wild Eagle“) Troop of the Navy of Imperial Japan. The soldiers of the Arawashi Troop were considered war heroes by the Japanese. This battle took place during the China Incident (Shina jihen) as called by the Japanese, which occurred at the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese war (1937–1945). The start of the war is conventionally dated to the Marco Polo Bridge Incident on 7 July 1937, when a dispute between Japanese and Chinese troops in Peking then escalated into a full-scale armed conflict. (With thanks to Michiko Sato-Grube for her above research.)

The artist Sengai was a student of Tomioka Eisen, and later worked as an illustrator for the newspaper Miyako shinbun. He is best known for his bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women) published in the 1920s and 30s. This is a very scarce design, and the best one from the scarce series of six. Included with the print is the original titled Japanese folder in grey, with further description inside in Japanese. This dealer can think of no other examples of woodblock printed images of an aerial dogfight.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition.
Publisher: Shisei-do
Literature: There is another print from this series in the St. Louis Art Museum. For the artist’s bijin-ga, see The Female Image: 20th Century Prints of Japanese Beauties, Amy Riegle Newland and Hamanaka Shinji, Abe Publishing Ltd and Hotei Publishing, 2000, p. 208.
Signature: Sengai 洗厓