Ogata Gekko gekko portrait Early Triptychs

Amongst this group of triptychs are some of Gekko's earliest issued prints. There are earlier examples of his work in book illustrations but these prints (probably self issued) represent his formative woodblock prints. Sometimes referred to as the Historical Triptychs due to the scenes they portray the first of them appears in 1883, to date it is not certain when the last of them were issued, possibly it was 1894. They were obviously popular as several editions exist for a number of the prints. It seems unlikely that Gekko meant them to be considered as a set due to both the lengthy issue period and the fact that several publishers appear to have been involved. The very early works such as the Future of Japan and the Execution of Prince Morinaga show Gekko before he had developed his distinctive style. The Utsunomiya Incident could easily be an expansion of any number of his book illustrations and shows off his strong compositional skills, the later works such as Emperor Godaigo and Tadanobu continue to show bold composition but also reveal his growing sense of the use of space.

 

future of japan1

The Future of Japan Published in May of 1883 this is a very early work.

 

prince2

The Execution of Prince Morinaga, 1883. It has been suggested an 1882 edition may exist.

 

yukimura3

Yukimura Hiding Himself in the Reed Bushes from the Shogun Ieyasu's Deputy, 1884.

Published by Komiyama Shōbei

 

sumo4

Enryokan Tenran Sumo Yokuzuna Nozu, (Emperor and Sumo Champion) 1884

A rare depiction of sumo by Gekko

 

inaka genji5

Inaka Genji.

This is a story by Ryutei Tanehiko. It was a popular adaptation of the classic novel, The Tale of Genji, but set in the Edo era. A remarkable print showing Gekko's strong understanding of the Ukiyo-e tradition of prints. Published in 1885 by Naito Kaya.

 

utsunomiya6

The Utsunomiya Soudouki (Disturbance or Incident), 1885

Published by Fukuda Kumajirō

 

kusanoki7

Last Stand of the Kusunoki Clan , 1890

 

godaiygo8

The Emperor Godaigo 1892

 

zhang9

Zhang Liang

Zhang Liang receiving a handscroll of generalship from Huang Shi, 1892, earlier editions probably exist

 

tadanobu10

Tadanobu

Tadanobu (one of Yoshitsune's men) wears the costume of Yoshitsune and fights against the priest, Yokogawa Kakuhan in Mt.Yoshinoyama, published by Matsuki Heikichi, 1892

 

masatsura11

The Last Stand of Masatsura in the Battle of Shijo-nawate in 1348, Published by Narazawa Kanezo (Narasawa Kenjiro), initial publication date probably 1883, republished 1901 (the edition shown above) with some variation.

 

Suga12

The Soga brothers (Kamakura era). The tale of the Soga brothers (Soga monogatari) is a well loved tale of honour and revenge, celebrated in books and theatre. It is not clear exactly what part of the story is illustrated here. Published by Iwaki Shōzō December 1884.