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
The Battle of Go-San-Nen
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
Sino-Japanese Pitched Battles Two Generals Fighting at Fenghuangcheng
Sergeant Miyake’s Courage at the Yalu River” by Watanabe Nobukazu, 1895
Our Forces Crossing the Yalu River In Honor of Lieutenant General Nozu
Illustration of the Attack on the Hōōjyo
Battle of Yellow Sea
And the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05:
Torpedo boat attack on Port Arthur
torpedo boat attack on Port Arthur 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 Petropavlask sinks as Adm. Makarov stands bravely on deck
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.