Historical Triptychs

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Amongst this group of triptychs are some of Gekko’s earliest issued prints. There are earlier examples of his work in book illustrations but these prints (probably self issued) represent his formative woodblock prints. Sometimes referred to as the Historical Triptychs due to the scenes they portray the first of them appears in 1883, to date it is not certain when the last of them were issued, possibly it was 1894. They were obviously popular as several editions exist for a number of the prints. It seems unlikely that Gekko meant them to be considered as a set due to both the lengthy issue period and the fact that several publishers appear to have been involved. The very early works such as the Future of Japan and the Execution of Prince Morinaga show Gekko before he had developed his distinctive style. The Utsunomiya Incident could easily be an expansion of any number of his book illustrations and shows off his strong compositional skills, the later works such as Emperor Godaigo and Tadanobu continue to show bold composition but also reveal his growing sense of the use of space.

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