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Chikanobu (1838 - 1912)

Bin Shiken (Min Ziqian)

Series: 24 Paragons of Filial Piety
Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: 1890
Size (H x W): 14.25 x 9.25 (inches)
Publisher: Hasegawa Tsunejiro
Signature: Yoshu Chikanobu
Condition: Very good color and impression, slightly trimmed bottom edge, small ink smudge on bottom left, pink ink stain bottom right.

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Bin Shiken (or Min Ziqian in the Chinese tale) lost his mother at a young age. His father remarried, but his stepmother was cruel, doting her own two sons while neglecting Bin Shiken. When the weather turned cold, the two brothers donned warm coats stuffed with cotton, while Bin Shiken shivered beneath a thin jacket stuffed with rushes. Freezing fingers and trembling hands made the boy clumsy and unable to focus. One day, as he drove a carriage to town, he accidentally drove into a ditch. His infuriated father began to punish the boy, but in the process, the jacket ripped, revealing the dry rushes inside. When the father realized his wife's mistreatment of his son, he demanded a divorce. Bin Shiken begged for mercy for his stepmother, stirring regret and shame in the woman, who forever changed her attitude to Bin Shiken.

About the artist

Chikanobu Toyohara (also known as Chikanobu Yoshu) was a leading woodblock print artist of the Meiji Period. Born in Niigata prefecture as Naoyoshi Hashimoto, Chikanobu began his life as the son of samurai in the service of the Sakakibara clan. During the Meiji Restoration, he joined the shogitai, an elite samurai brigade in direct support of the waning Tokugawa Shogunate and fought bravely in the Battle of Ueno in 1868. Though captured in the fray, he was released unharmed. As the Shogunate fell, Chikanobu focused on a career in art.

Though trained in Kano school painting from an early age, Chikanobu shifted his attention to ukiyo-e around 1852. Chikanobu began his woodblock printmaking career under the tutelage of Utagawa School masters Kuniyoshi, Kunisada and Kunichika. Like many of his contemporaries, Chikanobu Toyohara worked as a newspaper illustrator as well as a print artist. By 1871, he had established himself as a leading print artist. He designed across all genres, from kabuki actors and beauties to military exploits of past and present. During the 1870s, Chikanobu captured Meiji Japan’s rapid modernization through kaika-e, or “enlightenment pictures.” Attuned to current events and public taste, he produced designs of both the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion, an ill-fated insurrection against the Meiji government, and well as the 1882 Imo Incident in Korea. Chikanobu’s reflected his changing world not only through his subject matter, but also in his materials. Incorporating the purples and reds of imported aniline dyes, he achieved an element of subtlety and sophistication rarely seen in his era. By the 1880s, a wave of national nostalgia for a Japan past prompted designs exploring traditional Japanese culture, values, and heroes. Through explorations of female beauty, Chikanobu Toyohara personified moments in Japanese history through fashion, manners and customs. In 1912, he died of stomach cancer.