Circa 1878 Oil on hemp cloth, depicting a large salmon hung up to dry from a coarse aranawa (straw rope) on a dark blue background, unsigned. 144.5cm x 45.5cm (56 7/8in x 18in).
A number of previously unknown versions of Takahashi Yuichi's Sake (Salmon) a celebrated, much-published and pioneering masterpiece of Yoga (Western-style painting using mostly non-Japanese materials and techniques)came to light in the early 1980s and were exhibited in 1982 alongside the three previously known versions, exciting much controversy and comment. 1
The present lot closely resembles one of the best-known of the three established versions, in the collection of the Yamagata Museum of Art (1878), the resemblance extending to the dimensions, the dark background, the arrangement of the fish (with the eye to the right), the extent to which the flesh has been cut away, and the hemp cloth support, in contrast to the paper used for the version in Tokyo University of Arts and Music; however, the treatment of the fish's skin is much closer to the Tokyo version.
As Aoki Shigeru noted in 1982, there is documentary evidence that Takahashi Yuichi first exhibited a painting entitled Sake (Salmon) at the fourth Kyoto Hakurankai (Kyoto Exposition) in March 1875, and a painting of a Hizakana or Hoshiuo (Dried Fish) in October of the same year; he also showed paintings with titles such as Shiozake (Salted Salmon), Sake (Salmon) or just Sakana (Fish) at monthly exhibitions held at the Tenkaisha painting school in 1877, 1888 and 1890 as well as at other exhibitions in 1879 and 1893. It is unclear, however, whether these records refer to repeated exhibitions of the same work, or exhibitions of several different works. Anecdotal evidence suggests that students at the Tenkaisha sometimes copied paintings by Takahashi and it remains to be determined whether or not this lot is from his hand.
1. Takahashi Yuichi ten: Meiji yoga no kyojin (Takahashi Yuichi exhibition: Giant of Meiji Western-style Painting), Otani Memorial Museum, Nishinomiya, 1982.