Natori Shunsen


Natori Shunsen

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Natori Shunsen 名取春仙 (なとりしゅんせん)
1886 - 1960

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Inspired by a feature in the Daruma Magazine, Issue 67
Daruma Magazine


Natori Shunsen
is considered by many to be the last master in the art of kabuki yakusha-e–literally, “actor pictures”. He was born in Yamanashi Prefecture, but his family settled in Tokyo shortly after his birth, and he remained there until his death in 1960.

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Shunsen developed an interest in kabuki actor portraits while working as an illustrator for the newspaper Asahi Shimbun. During this time, he had the opportunity to meet the publisher Shozaburo Watanabe, who was the primary force behind the shin hanga movement.

In 1925, Shunsen and Watanabe worked together on a series of 36 actor portraits. This series contains some of Shunsen's finest kabuki designs. Watanabe lavishly produced each print in a limited edition of 150 and sold them only by subscription. The series lasted through 1929, followed by a supplemental series of 15 actor prints produced through 1931.

Shunsen's actor portraits were mainly in the ōkubi-e (large head) format which allowed him to focus on the expression and emotions of the character's face.

Shunsen continued to work as an artist in the kabuki theater, but did not design any other actor prints until the early 1950s. From 1951 to 1954, he again collaborated with Watanabe on another series of 30 actor prints. Like the earlier series, these designs were beautifully printed and are very expressive, especially the ōkubi-e portrait.

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hanga gallery
Natori Shunsen

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Natori Shunsen, one of the finest designers of actor prints, was born Natori Yoshinosuke, the fifth son of a silk merchant. The family moved to Tokyo after Shunsen's father lost his business. In Tokyo, Shunsen had the opportunity to begin his artistic training. At the age of eleven, he began studying with Kubota Beisen (1852-1906), a Japanese-style (Nihonga) painter. During this time he received his artist's name "Shunsen". He later studied at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts.

In 1909 Shunsen began working at the Tokyo Newspaper, Asahi Shinbun, illustrating the newspaper's literary sections and serialized novels.

While working at the newspaper, Shunsen began to exhibit his paintings of kabuki and literary characters. During an exhibit in 1916, the woodblock publisher Watanabe Shozaburo happened to see one of Shunsen's actor portraits, Nakamura Ganjiro as Kamiya Jihei. Watanabe was immediately impressed by the work and wanted to employ Shunsen as a print designer for his "new prints" (shin hanga). Shunsen agreed to a collaboration and Watanabe produced two actor prints from his designs in 1916 and 1917.

Read the full text here
source : www.hanga.com


Natori Shunsen
was the last ukiyo-e artist making actor portraits in traditional manner and one of the major artists of the Shin Hanga movement. His life took a most tragic end. In 1960 the artist and his wife committed suicide at the grave of their deceased daughter.

Natori Shunsen was born in Tokyo under the given name of Yoshinosuke. He studied traditional Japanese painting - Nihonga - as a student of Kubota Beisen and at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. After finishing his art training, he could get an employment at a Tokyo newspaper as an illustrator.

A Terrible Tragedy
In 1958 Shunsen's daughter died of pneumonia at the age of only twenty-two. Natori and his wife could not get over the death of their beloved daughter. Two years later they committed suicide by poisoning themselves at their daughter's grave.
source : www.artelino.com


He made illustrations for the haiku magazine

Sooun (Soun) 『層雲(そううん)』"stratus clouds"

This magazine has been founded by the modern haiku poet
Ogiwara Seisensui (1884 - 1976)
荻原 井泉水(おぎわら せいせんすい).

Shunsen worked as an editor for the haiku magazine from 1911 till 1915.


層雲と自由律俳句 Soun to Jiyuritsu Haiku


Ogiwara Seisensui (荻原井泉水)
16 June 1884— 11 May 1976
was the pen-name of Ogiwara Tōkichi, a Japanese haiku poet active during the Taishō and Showa periods of Japan.
Seisensui co-founded the avant-garde literary magazine Sōun ("Layered Clouds") in 1911, together with fellow haiku poet Kawahigashi Hekigoto.

Ogiwawa was a strong proponent of abandoning haiku traditions, especially the "season words" so favored by Takahama Kyoshi, and even the 5-7-5 syllable norms. In his Haiku teisho (1917), he broke with Hekigoto and shocked the haiku world by advocating further that haiku be transformed into free verse.
His students included Ozaki Hōsai and Taneda Santōka.
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. fuite misete ko ni fukeru no wa hato no fue .

I blow to show it
and let my child blow it -
this pidgeon whistle


. Kawahigashi Hekigoto (Hekigodo) 河東碧梧桐

Shinkoo haiku 新興俳句 "Young and New Haiku"
. Modern Haiku - Gendai Haiku 現代俳句 in Japan  




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