The Barry Rosensteel Japanese Print Collection consists of 126 woodblock prints that date from the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. The work of over forty artists is represented in the collection; a list of all is shown to the right.
The images portray Japanese culture through detailed depictions of portraits, landscapes, wildlife and theatrical performances, taking into account some of Japan’s rich history. A small quantity of prints depicting Chinese scenes is also part of the collection.
Images range in size from that of a small greeting card to poster size. The smallest measures 4 x 6 inches and the largest 9 x 30 inches. The accompanying descriptive text includes the Japanese term for the approximate paper size: Aiban tate-e, Aoban tate-e, Chuban tate-e, Chu-tanzaku, Dai-oban tate-e, Hashira-e, Hosoban, Kakemono-e, Koban, Koban Tate-e, Oban tate-e, and Oban yoko-e.
The work of over forty artists is represented in the collection. The earliest print, dating to 1760, is by Kitao Shigemasa (1739-1820) and depicts a carp leaping a waterfall. The works of several artists of the Utagawa school are found in the collection. While there is a broad representation of artists, it is interesting to note the significant number of pieces by a select few.
For example, there are fifteen works by Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825), whose unconventional portraits of kabuki actors resulted in enormous success. One of his most influential pupils was Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864), well known for his portraits of kabuki actors, many of which can be found amongst his sixteen prints in the collection.
Paul Jacoulet (1902-1960), while born in Paris, spent most of his life in Japan where his family moved in 1906. While he did not produce his first woodblock print until 1934, his total body of work is thought to number around thirty thousand pieces. However, less than two hundred are known to exist. The Rosensteel collection includes 12. The earliest of that group, from 1935, of a young Fiji girl is representative of his portraits of indigenous people of the South Sea.
The prints were produced with high-quality paper. Vegetative color pigments, and, in some cases, ground precious metals, were used as part of the creative process. Each of the prints has been housed in an archival-quality folder and individually identified.
A modest number of folders are housed within each box to further ensure safe handling when the prints are used for scholarly research or when being reviewed for exhibit purposes. Indeed, some of the prints have been selected for public viewings in galleries and museums.
The descriptive information for the online collection includes notes on series, publisher, provenance, and if the print was signed by the artist. Where this information is known it is displayed. When an item is comprised of two or more plates, each plate was scanned separately; this is indicated with the designations of the plate number followed by an a, b, c, etc.
The Rosensteel Collection is located in the Special Collections Department of the University Library System, where all of the original prints are available for research and scholarly study. It complements the holdings of the East Asian Library, a collection of over 400,000 volumes, which makes it the 14th largest East Asian collection in North America. It also complements the Walter and Martha Leuba Collection, which contains several twentieth century Japanese woodblock prints.