Chikanobu Toyohara (also known as Chikanobu Yoshu) was an influential woodblock print artist of the Meiji Period. Born in Niigata prefecture, Chikanobu (née Naoyoshi Hashimoto) began his life as a samurai of the Sakakibrara Clan. During the Meiji Restoration, he joined the shogitai, an elite samurai brigade in direct support of the shogun’s court, and fought bravely in the Battle of Ueno in 1868. As the Shogunate fell, Chikanobu turned to a career in art. Though trained in Kano school painting, he shifted his attention to ukiyo-e in 1875. He began his printmaking career under the tutelage of the Utagawa School masters Kuniyoshi, Kunisada and Kunichika. Like many of his contemporaries, Chikanobu also worked as a newspaper illustrator. He designed prints in all genres, from kabuki actors to historical military scenes and senso-e, but he is most recognized for his portrayal of women’s fashions, pastimes and customs. These works trace the movement of traditional Japanese culture into increasingly Western-influenced Japan that emerged after Commodore Perry’s arrival in 1854 and the resulting modernization. While many of the prints from this era feature the bright, opaque appearance of aniline dyes, Chikanobu maintains an aspect of subtlety even with the use of these synthetic colors.
It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process. - Max Eastman