How to date Tatsumi Shimura's woodblock prints


How to date Five Figures of Modern Beauties series

Five Figures of Modern Beauties
L to R: Natsu takete, Maihime, Oibane, Marumage, and Hanafubuki.
Gihachi shirabezumi Tatsumi kenin >Carver: Yashita Tadashichi Printer: Inomura Masanosuke Printer: Ito Shuntaro Nihon Hanga Kenkyusho Signature: Tatsumi Carver: Nakagawa Chushichi Printer: Onodera Ryuji Pencil signature Unread seal with edition no.
A B C D E F G H I J K
AGihachi shirabezumi ぎはちしらべすみ (examined by Gihachi. Okuyama Gihachiro 奥山儀八郎)
BTatsumi kenin 立美けん印 (approved by Tatsumi. Shimura Tatsumi 志村立美)
CCarver: Yashita Tadashichi 矢下忠七
DPrinter: Inomura Masanosuke 猪村正之助 b.1906
EPrinter: Ito Shuntaro 伊藤俊太郎 b.1904
FNihon Hanga Kenkyusho 日本版画研究所 (Japanese Printmaking Institute)
GSignature: Tatsumi
HCarver: Nakagawa Chushichi 中川忠七 b.1921
IPrinter: Onodera Ryuji 小野寺隆二 b.1935
JPencil signature
KSeal (not read) with edition no.

1952, til not later than 1961
First state prints have both seals A and B. Seal A ceased when publisher F dissolved in 1954 and Okuyama family moved to Matsudo. Note that red seals were rather haphazardly applied and printed in different areas of margins (see above for examples of confirmed 1st states). Numerous dealers advertise, probably erroneously, that the 1st state was an edition of 200. First states and their folders do not indicate edition size.

All early state prints have seal B, carver C, and printer D.** It is highly probable that these prints are all 1st states given the aforementioned haphazard seal application and Okuyama had very likely left before printing was complete. In fact Okuyama was very erratic when applying his seal A to his own prints during this period.

** There is a single example of Natsu takete with carver C and printer D that has red seals completely missing.
** There is a single example of Oibane with carver C and printer E. Red seals are missing and a Yuyudo printer might indicate a later test print.

ca. 1976 to 1980
A late lifetime edition was made by carver H and printer I. It is believed that registration was adjusted with color blocks added (carver H and printer I specialized in high quality reproductions, notably Hiroshige). This edition was pencil-signed J in an edition of 300 (highest number known 93 96). This particular edition is indistinguishable from posthumous editions except for the artist's pencil signature. (Note that posthumous lithographs, at least up until 1996, featured a stamped signature.)

1980 til present
Posthumous editions, again with carver H and printer I, were printed in editions of 150, 200, and 300 (highest numbers known 70 71, 39, and 88, respectively), and were numbered in pencil on a red circular seal K.

Later an open edition appeared with no red seals, nor pencil edition numbers, nor signature, nor folders. These are reasonably common perhaps outnumbering other editions 5 to 1 in secondary markets. Printer I was either himself printing or supervising printing during the 2000s. The official Shimura website (Inter Art Co Ltd) was selling woodblock prints up until 2009. It is possible the open edition remains in production given perfectly untoned prints often come to market in batches.

Prints featured in The Female Image: 20th Century Prints of Japanese Beauties (Newland et al. 2000) are the open posthumous edition and the book's titles do not match titles embossed on actual prints.


How to date later Tatsumi Shimura prints

Yuyudo seal 1 Yuyudo seal 2 >Yuyudo seal 3 >Yuyudo seal 4
L M N O
LYūyūdo approval seal (not read) (Yūyūdo publisher 悠々洞出版)
MYūyūdo approval seal
NYūyūdo approval seal
OYūyūdo approval seal

There are 21 confirmed woodblock prints, selected from 75 paintings in States of Beauties 美人百態 published in 1976, in addition to the Five Modern Beauties. Shimura was awarded a national book prize in 1976 which was very likely the catalyst for renewed interest and Yuyudo publishing prints during the late 1970s and 80s. Yuyudo sold in either sets and later pre-framed (edition no. matches on print, frame and cardboard box). The first 4 of these prints included seal B indicating that these were lifetime editions. The remaining prints included only seals M, N or O, probably in this chronological order, indicating these were actually posthumous editions.

updated February 2019