Yoshikazu: The Transit of an American Steam Locomotive (Sold)

  • Sold.

Artist: Utagawa Yoshikazu (active 1848-1870)
Title: The Transit of an American Steam Locomotive (Amerikakoku jokisha orai)
Date: 1861, 1st month

In the foreground are assembled an unsmiling lineup of American men in chincurtain beards, many of them soldiers. We see a few women with petticoated hoopskirts and bonnets, one of them raising a parasol. The color palette consists of dark greys and light blues, with the exception of the red and blue US flags. This dealer would surmise that this is to mimic the black and white photographs seen in newspapers, rather than this being a portrayal of evening. (The parasol would also be used on a sunny day.) The most interesting aspect of the work is the giant contraption that fills the entire triptych behind the gathered crowd. The artist must have seen an image of a large steam paddleboat and conflated it with an image of a steam locomotive, as what we see is obviously a boat with two decks and a large paddlewheel, with a pastiche of locomotive parts pasted on towards the front, where three men sit perched. A man is also perched on a diagonal arm next to the paddlewheel, riding along like a child. The stars on Old Glory are also done in a charming, flowerlike pattern that looks like kimono fabric design. In 1861 the Japanese artists would have created these works of the fascinating new foreigners from a limited number of imported printed sources, and filled in the blanks with their imaginations.

Condition: Very good impression, color and condition. Some minor wrinkles and minor nibbles at edges.
Dimensions: ôban triptych (36.6 x 75 cm)
Signature: Ichijusai Yoshikazu ga
Publisher: Maruya Jinpachi
Literature: See Met Museum for Lieberman example. See “Yokohama: Prints from Nineteenth-Century Japan” by Ann Yonemura, page 162, cat. no. 66.