Kiyochika 小林: The Great Fire at Ryogoku from Hama-cho 浜町より写両国大火

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Artist: Kobayashi Kiyochika 小林清親

Title: The Great Fire on Ryogoku Bridge, as Sketched from Hamacho (Hamacho yori utsushita Ryogoku taika) 浜町より写両国大火

Date: 1881

In January of 1881 a fire broke out near Ryogoku Bridge in Tokyo, near Kiyochika’s own house. He went out to sketch the fire, which later burned his home to the ground. Kiyochika made several prints of this fire and its aftermath, which destroyed over 10,000 buildings in Meiji Tokyo. There are many variations of how the fire is printed in this work, both in the colors that were used and in the degree of oxidation that naturally occurs to the lead-containing pigments. Here the bottom of the flames are strongly oxidized, giving them a deep orange-grey color. We see what look to be fire brigade members (not the actual firefighters) observing the scope of the fire, while others run away from the fire, carrying belongings as they make their escape.

Henry Smith noted that these fire prints were “some of the  most dramatic and popular works in the entire Tokyo series”. Also included at bottom margin is  “Meiji juyon nen ichi gatsu nijuroku nichi shukka” 明治十四年一月二十六日出火 (Outbreak of Fire on 26 January 1881), which gives this the feeling of live reportage. 

Condition:  Very good impression, color and condition. Large margins.

Dimensions: ôban 24.7 x 36.5 cm
Publisher: Fukada Kumajirô
References: Shizuoka Mus., Kobayashi Kiyochika (exh. cat., 1998), #41; Smith, Kiyochika (exh. cat., Santa Barbara, 1988), #47; Ukiyo-e taikei 12 (1976), #90; Yoshida, Kiyochika (1964), #32. See MFA, British Museum, Chazen, Honolulu Museum of Art collections.

Signature: Kobayashi Kiyochika hitsu