Print chronology

Watanabe’s 1936 catalog lists 28 Sōzan prints (an unidentified one), but his production exceeds a hundred works, mostly performed before the 1923 great kanto. 120 prints are listed on this site. Since I found 15 new Sōzan prints in the  last 3 years (an average of 5 per year), assuming a total production of 150 works is perhaps plausible. However, establishing the exact chronology of these works was almost impossible. The only fixed points for a dating, in addition to the Watanabe’s 1936 catalog, are the three exhibitions in Shirokiya: 16-20 June 1921, June 1922 and 17-22 September 1932. The first and third lists are kindly provided me by Toshikazu Doi (Tokyo).

16-20 june 1921
Ginza, Shirokiya Tokyo JAPAN
17-22 april 1932
Ginza, Shirokiya  Tokyo JAPAN
Hydrangea (TA-05) Two Macaws in Tree (WT-08)
Lillies (MI-03?) Firefies in Reed (WT-9)
Firefies in Reed (TA-04) Heron & Willow (WT-11)
Morning Glory (KO-04?) Peacock in Plum Tree (WT-13)
Woodpecker on a ginkgo tree (TA-06)xxxx Paddybird in Autumn Leaves (WT-14)
Chickens (KO-05?) Barn Swallows & Willow (WT-15)

No Sōzan prints have been exhibited in the Toledo Museum (2-30 March 1930 and January 1936) or in Shinjuku Mitsukoshi Tokyo JAPAN (17-22 April 1932). While the identification of the 6 tanzaku of 1932 is certain, the recognition of some prints presented in Shirokiya, 1921 is more difficult since the format is not known.

In rare cases, in the older works, in addition to the signature and the seal, some short writings, often referring to the year of the taisho era (in the cases found, 1915) can be observed.

A further and unexpected source of information was the site by Marc Kahn, which shows a scrapebook (album) dated 1910 containing prints by Shotei, Hiroshige and Sōzan, from the workshop of Watanabe ( This album contained 21 prints by Shôtei, 7 by Itō Sōzan, and two by Hiroshige. The 7 illustrated Sōzan works were therefore definitely performed between 1908 and 1910.

Pre-quake and post-quake catalog numbers.

For some authors, certainly for Shotei and Sōzan, Watanabe has sometimes printed on the back of the prints (but not for all the copies) a progressive number relative to his catalog. In some works (the oldest ones?) the number was in Daiji characters (numbers followed by the character meaning “number”), while more often he used the roman numbers preceded by No.

Numbers rarely appear after 1936, with a smaller font (see Marc Kahn:

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxnum. 239: Red maple leaves and a paddy-bird. Watanabe 1936 catalog.


The sequence of these numbers, combined with the dates of Shirokiya’s exhibitions and Mark Kahn’s scrapebook, may perhaps allow us to establish a more exact chronology. However, what happened between the great quake of 1923 and 1926, the year of the cessation of Sōzan’s activities, remains rather mysterious.

Should all the numbers not included in the 1936 catalog be considered pre-quake numbers? The very recent discovery of the pre-quake version of the “Two macaws, red and dark-blue”, cat n 232 of 1936, which bears the number 911, should lead one to think that all these numbers are before 1923?

Anyway, I thought to put all the existing information about these numbers in the following table in order to reconstruct the numerical catalog of Watanabe pre Great Kanto. Your cooperation will enable us to implement this list.

Watanabe also numbered on the back the prints of Takahashi Shotei (see, but not of other artists, except for a print attributed to Ogura Ryuson which has the number 486 (see my comment in the “dubious prints” section). I also found two inconsistencies that I report here, hoping someone can solve them: different prints with the same number or transcription error?

nr. 331     SŌZAN     Pheasant   xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx nr. 331 xxSHOTEI    Snowy Day  (fide Marc Kahn – without image)

nr. 904      SŌZAN  x Cherry Blossoms at Night (FS-collection) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx nr. 904   x SHOTEI    Littleneck clams fishing boat at Kawasaki (fide Castle Fine Arts – without image)



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