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Artist: Eishōsai Chōki (栄松斎長喜)

Alternate names:
Momokawa (family name - 百川)
Shikō (go - 子興)
Shōtei (go - 松亭)

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Biography:

Active in the 1780s and 1790s.

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Laurence Binyon in Japanese Colour Prints says that Chōki was a student of Toriyama Sekien (1712-88), one of the great innovators in the production of ukiyo-e. Sekien listed Shikō as his pupil in a number of volumes he produced. In ca. 1788 Shikō changed his name to Chōki. Binyon wrote on page 125:

Sharaku's influence was to be mainly on theatrical prints, but he came as a disturbing force to the whole of Ukiyo-ye. Chōki, holding his own as an independent master of real originality, seems to have been very impressionable. And while drawn to Utamaro, he was evidently overcome by Sharaku's fascination. Not that he was fortunate as a direct imitator in actor-portraiture, as in his Chūshingura series. The faces recall Sharaku, at a distance, but Chōki's gift did not lie in that direction. As a token of admiration he designed a pillar-print with a girl holding a fan on which is Sharaku's portrait of Matsumoto Kōshirō IV with a pipe in his hand and bandage round his head. Choki at this time issued the finest of his designs, a group of prints of half-length figures with silvery mica ground, now among the collector's rarest prises. One is the charming design of two girls sitting in the moonlight; another is the famous nightpiece the "Fire-Flies "; a third is the “New Year Dawn,"... in which the figure is beautifully related to the landscape, and which has an emotional quality rare in Ukiyo-ye.... A noticeable mannerism of Choki's is the placing of the upright line of a figure close to the margin and almost parallel to it

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Little is known about Chōki's birth, death, or training. Kondo describes him as a "second-class artist in the history of Ukiyo-e ... not a man of creative genius" who imitated the forms of popular first-class artists. Lane states "The wonder of it is that, although Chōki was not the equal of any of the men he studied, in a small number of his finest prints he somehow surpassed them all in the evocation of poetic atmosphere and in the creation of an ideal of feminine beauty that is second to none in ukiyo-e." And from Hillier we hear "... so Chōki is reckoned among the most significant of the Japanese print-designers by virtue of a handful of prints bearing that certain impress we recognise as his own. The rest of his prints range from rather undistinguished bijin-e and triptychs in the manner of Kiyonaga, Eishi or Utamaro, to remarkably inept imitations of Sharaku." Hillier also remarks on that aspect of Chōki that appeals to me. "Occasionally, he reminds us of Modigliani: there is a comparable, though not similar, perversion of human proportions in compositions at once compelling and unsettling."

[It was James Michener, via Hillier, who made the comparison of Chōki with Modigliani.]