Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Watanabe Nobukazu

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sunday, I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Watanabe Nobukazu

Japanese woodblock printing (moku hanga) goes back to the 1700s and had evolved into high art by the 19th century. One of the more noted artists who operated in this media was Watanabe Nobukazu. Born in Tokyo in 1872 as Shimada Jiro, he studied duteously under master Yōshū Chikanobu in the Utagawa school before taking his new name.

His art ranged from traditional pre-Edo period Imperial Japanese Ukiyo-e imagery, to that of the more modern era the country was rapidly moving into. The process for this art form is among the most complex and demanding.

Woman with an Umbrella

Woman with an Umbrella

The Battle of Go-San-Nen

The Battle of Go-San-Nen

Nobukazu 3 Nobukazu 2

Nasu no Yoichi, Samurai of Genji side, tries to shoot down the fan placed atop the mast of his enemy Taira's ship at the battle of Yashima in 1185 via SCRC Virtual Museum at Southern Illinois University's Morris Library http://scrcexhibits.omeka.net/items/show/2

Nasu no Yoichi, Samurai of Genji side, tries to shoot down the fan placed atop the mast of his enemy Taira’s ship at the battle of Yashima in 1185 via SCRC Virtual Museum at Southern Illinois University’s Morris Library

Picture of Noble's Imperial Ceremony, 1900

Picture of Noble’s Imperial Ceremony, 1900

He later evolved his form to encompass a series of exquisite triptychs prints centering on the Sino-Japanese war of 1894. His use of vivid colors, glazes, and multiple transparencies gave his work a very characteristic depth of field.

The Second Army Bombarding and Occupying Port Arthur” by Watanabe Nobukazu, November 1894

The Second Army Bombarding and Occupying Port Arthur” by Watanabe Nobukazu, November 1894

Sino-Japanese Pitched Battles Two Generals Fighting at Fenghuangcheng

Sino-Japanese Pitched Battles Two Generals Fighting at Fenghuangcheng

Sergeant Miyake’s Courage at the Yalu River” by Watanabe Nobukazu, 1895

Sergeant Miyake’s Courage at the Yalu River” by Watanabe Nobukazu, 1895

Our Forces Crossing the Yalu River In Honor of Lieutenant General Nozu

Our Forces Crossing the Yalu River In Honor of Lieutenant General Nozu

Nobukazu

Illustration of the Attack on the Hōōjyo

Illustration of the Attack on the Hōōjyo

Battle of Yellow Sea

Battle of Yellow Sea

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And the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05:

Torpedo boat attack on Port Arthur

Torpedo boat attack on Port Arthur

torpedo boat attack on Port Arthur 1904

torpedo boat attack on Port Arthur 1904

Russian soldiers

Russian soldiers

Picture of Our Valorous Military Repulsing the Russian Cossack Cavalry on the Bank of the Yalu River by Watanabe Nobukazu, March 1904

Picture of Our Valorous Military Repulsing the Russian Cossack Cavalry on the Bank of the Yalu River by Watanabe Nobukazu, March 1904

The Russian battleship Petropvavlask sinks as Adm. Makarov stands bravely on desk

The Russian battleship Petropavlask sinks as Adm. Makarov stands bravely on deck

Illustration of Russian and Japanese Army and Navy Officers Watanabe Nobukazu, February 1904

Illustration of Russian and Japanese Army and Navy Officers Watanabe Nobukazu, February 1904

As with many woodblock artists of his day, his art fell out of favor in the 1920s, a victim of increasing modernization in Japan. He died in 1944, largely forgotten in his own country. However, his body of work is seen as among the best of its genre.

MIT has an amazing gallery of woodblock prints by the artist and others in the same period from the Sharf Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston available here while another inspiring gallery is maintained by the Lavenberg and at Ukiyo-e.org .

Thank you for your work, sir.

2 comments

  • Dear Sir,
    Thank you so much for your piece on Watanabe Nobukazu. It was presented beautifully; with excellent information, a brilliant selection of his many works and, most appreciated by me, with the honor and respect due an artist of his caliber and commitment.
    There are so few people who take the time to appreciate what went into creating, not just the art, but the artist in most disciplines of the 19th century and earlier. Thank you for not only appreciating his work but for sharing it.
    Kindest regards,

    Melanie Hellem-Loudon

  • Pingback: Fast Torpedo Boats on a Cold February Night | laststandonzombieisland

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