Forrest/Nedela Collection: Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95
(Currently not available for sale: for research and general interest only)
Woodblock Prints of the Sino-Japanese War
The First Sino-Japanese War (1 August 1894 – 17 April 1895) was fought between the Qing Empire of China and the Empire of Japan, primarily over control of Korea. After more than six months of unbroken successes by Japanese land and naval forces and the loss of the Chinese port of Weihaiwei, the Qing government sued for peace in February 1895.
The war saw a flood of woodblock prints, overwhelmingly in the form of triptychs, depicting its battles. It is estimated that a staggering 3000 prints were produced in the relatively short period of the war. Highly popular, they provided large scale and colourful images to an eager audience, no matter how crude or inaccurate some of them were. But this proved to be the last flowering of the ukiyo-e print which had been the popular art form of the Japanese townspeople for over 250 years.
Other than Adachi Ginko, only three Japanese artists went to the front, Kubota Beisen and his two sons, and the images they recorded in their 9 nine volume Nisshin Sento Gaho (Illustrated Account of the Sino-Japanese War) published between October 1894 and July 1895 are the only first hand depictions of the war and form a unique and important source of journalistic reports. Nine of the eleven volumes are in the Forrest/Nedela collection and can be viewed here.
Other artists were free to imagine the scenes of war and to use the full range of colours not known to the ukiyo-e artists of earler times. Coupled with the haste with which the prints were produced, this undoubtedly led, on the one hand, to the printing of crude, violently coloured propoganda tracts; and on the other to works of great artistry, inspiration and delicacy. Designs by artists such as Beisaku, Toshihide, Gekko, and, predominantly, Kiyochika rank with the best achievements of Japanese woodblock printing.
We began to collect these prints over three years ago in order to consolidate our collecting of Japanese woodblock prints in one particular area, and in an area where the prints were relatively modestly priced and readily available. The information we have recorded on these pages is the most comprehensive we have been able to gather to date. We trust viewers will be enthralled, as we are, by the sheer variety of the scenes depicted, as well as the stunning artistry of many of them. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have further information to add thus far recorded or you have enquiry, on email@example.com
David Forrest and Janis Nedela, September 2016
click on thumbnails to access prints