Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A print by the 'Two Brushes'

I went to my favourite local auction house today, I'd spotted something in the catalogue that made my 'art antennae' go into alert-mode! After a little research I realised the description in the auction catalogue was, how shall I put it? . . . economical with the truth. I could be on to a bargain!

In case someone had spotted what I had spotted and the bidding went bonkers, I decided to leave a modest commission bid with the auctioneer and cross my fingers.

But I couldn't resist popping in to the auction . . . and YES! The auctioneer banged down the hammer and I got the print for much less than my commission bid max. 

I skipped home and couldn't wait to get it out of it's grubby frame . . . I know it's a bit faded but the condition isn't bad at all. What I've found is a collaborative print between two major Japanese artists, Kunisada (who used his pseudonym 'Toyokuni III' to sign this print) and Hiroshige in a series of prints called 'Fifty-three stations (of the Tokaido Road) by the Two Brushes'

Hiroshige did the landscapes, views along the coastal route between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto. The views are similar to his earlier series '53 Stations on the Takaido' which established him as the master of the landscape print. This print depicts Station 9 'Odawara', at the Sakawa River crossing which is near the Yumoto hot springs.

Kunisada, who was famous for portraying Kabuki actors, did the figures in the foreground. This print has a woman (probably a Geisha, as she has blackened teeth) wearing a shibori dyed cotton yukata (summer kimono robe), she looks as if she's just been bathing in the hot springs and is drying her face.

I think the other figure is a maid? but her clothes and hairstyle are quite elaborate, so maybe a she's a Maiko (trainee Geisha)? Or is she selling something? I'm not sure exactly what is in the basket, is it food or cosmetics, or souvenir trinkets? It looks like a toy box!

Kunisada was 68 and Hiroshige 57 when they worked on this series together, I think they must have been old mates. I love how they called themselves 'Two brushes ' (it makes me think of The Two Ronnies!). In fact when Hiroshige died only a few years later, during a plague epidemic, it was Kunisada who designed his friend's memorial plaque. 

Hiroshige who died on 12 October 1858 by Kunisada

I can't quite believe I've found such a gem.



  1. Oh, Celia! You jammy old thing, you! That is a fabulous find.And entirely deserved since your sharp eye spotted its provenance. I'm almost as chuffed as if I'd foound it!

  2. Wow, what a wonderful find! I'm sure the artists would be very pleased to know that it has found such an appreciative new home. Enjoy!

  3. Celia, I echo what Su has already commented. Those Two Brushes cannot quite believe their luck to have this beautiful print so appreciated by someone who also knows a thing or three about printmaking.

    You must be thrilled!


  4. Well done you and thank you for introducing me to something completely new. Off to look at more ....

  5. They look like gems indeed, delicate works of art they are!

  6. Dear Celia - This is such a lovely tale - your knowledge about Kunisada and Hirosada has rewarded you handsomely. Well done, I am sure that you cant wait to have it framed and hanging on the wall. It couldn't have ended up in a better home than with someone who really appreciates their work.

  7. What a great find Celia. The print is beautiful. I went to an exhibition of Japanese art last year at The Fitzwilliam. The style lends itself to your linocuts I always think...

    Well done you!


  8. How marvellous, but how do you know so much about them?

  9. What a lovely find, it was obviously meant to be yours!Very interesting to read all about it.

  10. Wonderful! I should do some digging around and see what I can find at auction here in the New England.


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