The first citation that considers Fuyo a pseudonym of Narazaki Eisho in the modern age is due to Merritt & Yamada, 1992 who certainly took it from Shizuya Fujikake (1949, second edition, pag. 94, not 1938, first edition, as always reported ). Fujikake repeats what Watanabe wrote in his 1935/1936 catalog adding only that Narazaki “learned the art of wood-block printing from Eitoku Kobayashi”. The name of Fuyo would be assumed in 1916. So ultimately it seems to be Watanabe himself who asserts that Fuyo is a pseudonym of Narazaki Eisho. Then there is the discrepancy on the assumption of the name of Narazaki Eisho (Yeisho) in 1922 rather than in 1932 as reported by Watanabe, but it could also be only a typographical typo.
I contacted the National Printing Bureau, Japan, to get information about the collaboration between Narazaki and Edoardo Chiossone and to find out if the name Fuyo already appeared in documents of the time. I had confirmation of the presence of a “Narazaki” among Edoardo Chiossone’s pupils (source: the autobiography “Hakutei Jiden”, 1971, by Ishii Hakutei, a printmaker and painter who also affiliated with the Printing Bureau like Narazaki).
However they write to me “we were unable to find any information” on the presence of the name Fuyo during Narazaki’s stay with Chiossone. I therefore consider it established that the name Fuyo is to be connected only with the period of activity with Watanabe.
However, I’m not entirely convinced that Fuyo should be identified with Narazaki Eisho. I cannot assert that Watanabe Shozaburo wrote a falsehood in 1935/36, but I have some doubts:
1. After the Great Kanto, Watanabe recalls his artists and has them redo part of the destroyed prints. Thus we have pre- and post-quake versions for both Sozan and Shotei. Why doesn’t it happen for Fuyo of which I have identified 17 works to date? In the 1936 catalog we find with the nr. 231 a single print by Fuyo: “Snowladen reeds and kingfisher”. Instead of Narazaki they are listed on p. 114, 8 new prints numbered from E-91 to E-98, however in a completely different style and format.
2. On his website dedicated to Shotei, Marc Kahn cites this print among the works not attributable to Shotei: “Snow Scene” signed “Fuyō”
“It is common knowledge that “Fuyō” is an early go (art name) of Narazaki Eishō. This print is clearly signed and sealed with the name “Fuyō”, therefore, it won’t be included in the catalog.
However, I’m not buying it. Everything about this print screams out to me “Shōtei!”. The composition, the subtle coloration, the characters that I’m using for wallpaper on this page, even the dog. There is no doubt in my mind that this is an early Shōtei print. “Fuyō” must have been a house name, used by multiple artists. Of course I can’t prove it, but that’s what I get from this print.
My distinguished colleague, Shimizu Hisao, curator of the Ota-ku Folk Museum, author of 2 books on Takahashi Shōtei, and owner of the most extensive collection of Shōtei prints in the world, disagrees with me on this. He is certain that since this print is signed and sealed “Fuyō”, that there can be no doubt that it was the work of Narazaki Eishō.”.
In fact, as demonstrated by the 17 prints with “Fuyo” signature in this catalog, these share a style that is very reminiscent of Shotei or Sozan. I think it unlikely that Watanabe asked an artist to produce some prints by imitating the style of other “colleagues” present in his team at that time.
3. The habit of Japanese artists to change names is known. Hokusai is an example of this, or Koson who then signs himself Shoson, to stay in the Shin-Hanga era. However, as Marc Kahn has demonstrated, Shotei himself produced prints for Watanabe under Kakei’s name early in his partnership, while simultaneously signing with his real name. This change of name could therefore be a commercial strategy (“house-name”), to suggest to buyers that the team of Watanabe’s artists was wider than the real one. An example described in these new pages is “Koto”, certainly identifiable in Ito Sozan. Another possibility is that the use of a “house name” was applied in the case of prints resulting from the collaboration of several artists. Indeed, some of Fuyo’s prints immediately bring to mind Shotei, while others may have been drawn by Sozan.
4. I’ve collected all possible information on Watanabe’s pre-quake inventory numbers. To my knowledge these numbers are only found on the back of works by Shotei (and Kakei) or Sozan (and pseudonyms, such as Koto). However Watanabe in the period from 1915 to 1923 collaborated with other artists, of which I do not know any item with the inventory number on the back. It therefore seems to me possible to state that Shotei and Sozan had a particular working relationship with Watanabe at that time, as if they were “employees”, while other artists, such as Hasui, etc., had a different working relationship. The fact that Fuyo’s works have the inventory number on the back like Shotei and Sozan, makes me think that they are related to these two authors.
As I was able to write at the beginning of my site dedicated to Ito Sozan, I am not a specialist in Japanese prints of the Shin Hanga period, but just a retired scientist who tries to apply scientific and rigorous methods to a problem. In the absence of reliable data or verifiable sources, some attributions could only be opinions. It is therefore my opinion that the identification of “Fuyo” with Narazaki Eisho is not entirely certain, but that Fuyo may be a “house name” under which Shotei and/or Sozan are hiding.
Again, this is just my opinion and I’m ready to change my mind if someone proves me wrong.
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