Yokohama Boomtown Image Gallery / Y0062_AmericanShip
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Amerika jōkisen: nagasa yonjukken haba rokken

Title: American Steamship: Length Forty Ken, Width Six Ken
Artist: Yoshikazu (fl. ca. 1850-70)
Format: Woodblock print
Medium: Ink and color on paper
Dimensions: triptych: 36.5 x75.1 cm (14 x29 9/16 in)
Source: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Description: The oceangoing ships that came to Yokohama from Europe and America were much grander in scale than the traditional Japanese coastal vessels. Perhaps to impress the intended purchaser, the publisher of this print included in its title the length and width of the steamship. In traditional Japanese architecture the ken is the distance between two pillars, a unit determined by the length, approximately six feet, of the standard tatami mat. The length of the ship, expressed in Japanese terms as that of forty tatami placed end to end, would have seemed palatial to the Japanese. This print, a triptych of three standard sheets, provides an overall wide format for the profile view of a ship with billowing sails and a plume of black smoke. Graded color printing of the sky, smoke, water, and evening glow on the horizon is beautifully executed in techniques that had become well established in the landscape prints of Hokusai (1797-1849) and Hiroshige I (1797-1858). The artist clearly devoted considerable effort to depicting the ship as accurately as possible and providing it with a suitably beautiful setting. Yoshikazu's familiarity with European conventions of draftsmanship is apparent in the sharp, linear patterns in the sky. The image's particularly abstract quality contrasts markedly to th eeffct produced by the subtle graded washes typical of Japanese landscaped prints. [Adapted from Ann Yonemura, Yokohama: Prints from Nineteenth-Century Japan]

Visualizing Cultures image number: Y0062

Keywords: United States, steamships, flags, ships, Americans, Westerners, art influences from the West

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