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The Lenoir C. Wright Collection

BACK TO SEVEN MASTERS
The Lenoir C. Wright Collection of Japanese woodblock prints at the Weatherspoon Art Museum is the only collection of its kind and depth in North Carolina and numbers close to 400 hundred images. Due to their light sensitivity, prints from the Wright collection are exhibited at WAM on an occasional basis. Although these 14 prints are not on display at this time, they reflect themes found in the current exhibition Seven Masters: 20th century Japanese Woodblock Prints: bajina or beautiful women, landscapes, and Kabuki actors. Guests may view additional images from the Wright Collection online through our collection page.
  • Ichirakutei Eisui
    Japan, 1790-1823
    Courtesan Hinazuru from the House of Choji-Ya Holding a Hand Mirror, 1798
    Woodblock print on paper
    15 x 9 ½ in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 1999.5.3


    Courtesans were ranked according to their class origin, beauty, talent and charm. Their social refinement and artistic accomplishments separated them from teahouse servers and common prostitutes and elevated them to the status of icons. As a result, they were popular subjects for many print artists. This particular woman was featured in prints by Chokosai Eisho, Utagawa Toyohiro, Chobunsai Eishi, and Kitagawa Utamaro, among others.



  • Utagawa (Ando) Hiroshige
    Japan, 1797-1858
    Rough Sea at Naruto in Awa Province, 1855, from the series Famous Places in the Sixty-Odd Provinces
    Woodblock print on paper
    14 ⅜ x 9 ⅝ in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 1998.3


    There is an area of water between Awa Province on the Island of Shikoku and the smaller island of Awaji where the waters of the Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. It is notorious for its whirlpools, as depicted here.



  • Torii Kiyotada
    Japan, 1844-1901
    Kabuki Actors as Sukeroku and Ikyu in the Drama “Sukeroku Yukari no Edo Zakura,”  about 1895, from the series The Eighteen Great Kabuki Plays (Kabuki Jûhachi-ban)
    Woodblock print on paper
    14 ¼ x 9 ½ in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 1992.4358.17


    This image depicts the characters Sukeroku and Ikyû from the play "Sukeroku Yukari no Edo Zakura." The drama is set in the center of Edo's licensed red light district, Yoshiwara, and involves a courtesan and two of her clients: Ikyû and Sukeroku, the latter of whom she loves. Sukeroku made an oath eighteen years earlier to avenge his father's murder, but his treasured sword, an heirloom of the Soga family, was stolen from him. He comes to Yoshiwara, where all classes of people meet, in hopes of finding it. He picks quarrels with all in order to make them draw their swords. Sukeroku believes Ikyû has the sword since he is the only person who refuses to fight. No matter what Sukeroku does, Ikyû never draws his sword, saying that it is too noble to be spoiled by a thief's blood. Eventually, however, Ikyû does draw his sword, and it is indeed the stolen one.

    The actor depicted as Sukeroku in this print was the ninth in line to hold the name Ichikawa Danjuro; he is widely credited with ensuring that Kabuki theater stayed vibrant and strong as Japan struggled with modernization and Westernization during the Meiji period (1868-1912). The print comes from a series entitled "The Best Eighteen Kabuki Plays of the Ichikawa Family (Kabuki Jûhachi-ban).”


  • Utagawa (Toyokuni III) Kunisada
    Japan, 1786-1865
    Utagawa of the Matsubaya, about 1790, from the series Beauties as Seven Komachi
    Woodblock print on paper
    15 ⅛ x 10 ⅛ in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 1999.6.2


    Ono no Komachi, a 9th-century poet renowned for her verse, was a popular subject among print artists who used her as a vehicle for comparing and equating modern women with classical ones. Komachi was reputed to be exceptionally beautiful and brilliant, and therefore highly desired by men. The legends around her life were codified into a series of seven episodes known as the “Seven Komachi.” In this image Kunisada presents a contemporary woman—Utagawa of the Matsubaya brothel, one of the Yoshiwara’s most glamorous courtesans—as Komachi. Both her garments and hair style reflect contemporary trends while a poem by Komachi surrounds her.



  • Katsushika Hokusai
    Japan, 1760-1849
    The Waterfall Where Yoshitsune Washed His Horse at Yoshino in Yamato Province (Washū Yoshino Yoshitsune uma arai no taki), about 1831, from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces (Shokoku taki meguri)
    Woodblock print on paper
    15 x 10 in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 2000.18


    Based on a well-known Japanese tale, this print shows the historic site where the warrior General Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-89) washed his horse at Yoshino, Yamato Province, while trying to hide from the enemy in the highlands surrounding the waterfall.

    The waterfall flows powerfully through a deep valley of trees and foliage. Rather than depicting Yoshitsune, Hokusai features in the foreground two small figures who attend to the task. Nevertheless, Hokusai makes the magnificent waterfall the focal point of the image through his use of thick, bold areas of white against the blue water. In addition, specks of white convey the bubbles and agitated foam of the water.



  • Utagawa (Toyakuni III) Kunisada
    Japan, 1786-1865
    Kabuki Actor Nakamura Utaemon IV as Higuchi no Jiro Kanemitsu in the Drama “Hirakana Seisuiki,” about 1850
    Woodblock print on paper
    13 ¾ x 9 ½ in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 1992.4358.72


    This print depicts a scene from the Kabuki drama Hirakana Seisuiki. Kunisada emphasized the Kabuki actor’s intense facial expression known as a cross-eyed mie pose. In Kabuki performances, an actor will freeze his pose at climactic moments of the play in order to create a unique form of theatrical tension. Similarly, Kunisada’s image of the warrior Higuchi no Jiro Kanemitsu conveys the sense of tension and passion that spectators of the play would have experienced firsthand.



  • Katsukawa Shuncho
    Japan, 1770-1795
    Okita from the Naniwaya Teahouse and the Kabuki Actor Iwai Tojaku I (Iwai Hanshirô V), about 1790
    Woodblock print on paper
    14 ¾ x 9 ⅞ in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 1999.14


    Okita was a beautiful waitress at the Naniwaya teahouse near the Asakusa Temple in the city of Edo (present day Tokyo). Iwai Tojaku I (Iwai Hanshirô V) was the finest onnagata (female impersonator) of his time, having both a beautiful voice and appearance. Although Shuncho was a member of the Katsukawa school, he emulated the style of Torii Kiyonaga, adding realism and individuality in his depictions of Kabuki actors.



  • Keisai Eisen
    Japan, 1790-1848
    View of Hamamatsu, about 1838, number 20 from the series Bijin Tōkaidō (Beauties on Stations of the Tokaido Road
    Woodblock print on paper
    15 x 10 in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 2000.37.4


    In this print a beauty woman or bijin is depicted in front of the scenic landscape of Hamamatsu. The print was inspired by Hiroshige's famous Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō with Beauties (Tōkaidō gojūsan tsugi no uchi). The Tōkaidō (literally the 'Eastern Sea Road') was the main road of feudal Japan that ran along the coast (in part the Pacific Ocean, in part the Inland Sea) between the old imperial capital of Kyoto and the new capital of Edo (now known as Tokyo). The journey contains some of the most beautiful scenery in Japan, including spots where mountains suddenly meet the sea.



  • Toyohara Kunichika
    Japan, 1835-1900
    Kabuki Actors (possibly Nakamura Sojuro or Seki Sanjuro IV) in the Role of Nikki Danjo in the Drama “Meiboku Sendai Hagil," about 1889
    Woodblock print on paper
    13 ¾ x 9 ¼ in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 1992.4358.54.a.b


    Kunichika primarily produced prints of Kabuki actors and scenes from popular plays of the time. He regularly spent time backstage, sketching the actors and watching the plays, and his immediate exposure is apparent in the intimacy of his impeccable yakusha-e (actor prints). Unlike most artists of the period, Kunichika used strong reds and dark purples, often as background colors, rather than the softer colors that previously had been employed. Towards the end of his career, Kunichika turned primarily to the triptych format. Its increased size gave him the space to fully portray the drama found in Kabuki plays and the lively action of the actors. A third panel may have originally been part of this work.

    One of the main characters in the drama “Meiboku Sendai Hagil” is the evil conspirator/cruel villain Nikki Dannjô, who plots against the elderly man Geki, only to ultimately die after hand-to-hand combat between them.



  • Tamagawa Shucho
    Japan, active about 1790-1805
    After a Bath, about 1795
    Woodblock print on paper
    14 ⅜ x 9 ⅜ in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 2000.34


    Many of Shucho’s images convey a sense of calm repose.



  • Utagawa (Ando) Hiroshige
    Japan, 1797-1858
    Meguro Drum Bridge and Sunset Hill, 1857
    Woodblock print on paper
    14 ¼ x 9 ¾ in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 1999.22.2


    Hiroshige evokes a sense of silence and beauty in this magnificent snowscape. Three lone figures cross a stone drum bridge as billowing snow accumulates in the valley and on the tree branches. The scene depicts the valley of the Meguro River, the main route to the shrine of Meguro Fudo. The road on the left would have led to a steep slope known as Gyoninzaka, named after a wandering ascetic (gyonin) who founded the temple of Daienji on the side of the hill. The Sunset Hill of the title is shown at the upper left and was once known for its brilliant maple trees.



  • Utagawa Kuniyasu
    Japan, 1794-1832
    Shamisen, about 1820
    Woodblock print on paper
    14 ⅝ x 9 ⅜ in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 1998.27.2


    Courtesans were ranked according to their class origin, beauty, talent and charm. If a young girl in the profession showed promise, she was taught to read, write, sing, dance, and play a musical instrument such as the shamisen—a long necked, three-stringed instrument, similar to a lute, played with a large plectrum. Courtesans were expected also to learn the arts of flower arrangement, calligraphy and tea ceremony. This social refinement and artistic accomplishment separated them from teahouse servers and common prostitutes and elevated them to the status of icons within ukiyo-e culture.



  • Katsushika Hokusai
    Japan, 1760-1849
    Kintai Bridge in Suō Province, about 1834, from the series Rare Views of Famous Bridges in Various Provinces
    Woodblock print on paper
    10 ⅜ x 15 ¼ in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 1998.29.2


    Most landscape prints of the 19th century were conceived as series, many according to classical themes, and featured people going about their daily business. Pure landscapes without any human figures are extremely rare. From the perspective of the print consumers, the inclusion of human activity provided a point of access through which they could project themselves vicariously into the landscape, either by engaging in the activities illustrated or simply to admire the view.



  • Yōshū Chikanobu
    Japan, 1838-1912
    Mirror of the Ages: Beauty of the Kyōwa era, 1897
    Woodblock print on paper
    14 ¾ x 10 in.
    Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Gift of Dr. Lenoir C. Wright, 1989.4191






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