Size: image 6 3/4 in. x 11 1/4 in. (169 mm x 282 mm ) / plate size 10 3/8 in. x 15 1/8 in. (265mm x 384 mm)
Item#: C-019 Artist: Kazumasa Ogawa
Image or title: Japanese relics from Kokka arts journal, issue #93
Date: 1900 Medium: duotone collotype on Japanese washi paper. Price: ¥35,000 JPY

Description: plate from the Japanese Art Magazine Kokka, by K. Ogawa. From issue no. 93, published in 1900. This important publication was an early art appreciation magazine founded by Ogawa and other notable scholars (read below).


Founded in 1889, Kokka is an illustrated monthly journal on fine arts in Japan and the orient. Still in publication to this day, Kokka or “National Essence” is the oldest international art journal from Japan. Published by Kokkasha of Tokyo, in the beginning it utilized full page collotype photographs taken by Kazumasa Ogawa and printed at his Tokyo printing plant the Ogawa Shashin Seihan-jo. Although Ogawa was not the publisher of Kokka, he along with Tenshin Okakura and other notable scholars were instrumental in launching this magazine. Additionally, many of Ogawa’s photographs featured in Kokka documented relics and treasures from old Japanese temples and shrines done at the request of the Imperial Household Ministry's Provisional Investigation Bureau of National Treasures. His collotypes were a regular feature of the magazine from 1889 to 1902 (volumes 1-6).

Collotype is a high quality printing process when gelatin is applied to a glass plate, allowed to dry, then exposed to a photographic negative. Once exposed the plate creates a fine grained image of reticulated gelatin that when inked can be used to print onto paper. This process was invented in 1855 by Alphonse Poitevin and was immensely popular in Japan from the 1890's to the 1940's due largely in part to Ogawa. Because of the high costs of copper associated with gravure printing, collotype became Japan's preferred method of printing over the gravure process.

Condition: Very good although the plate does has binding perforations in the right margin which is normal for all plates from Kokka. This was caused by the Japanese style binding in which string was woven through the pages. Plate also includes original rice paper cover sheet affixed to plate.

Kazumasa Ogawa (1860 - 1929):

A master of photography, Kazumasa Ogawa is best known for his artistic photographs and collotype publishing which numbered over 300 titles. Born in Saitama Prefecture in 1860, his father was a samurai and a retainer of the Matsudaira clan. By the age of fifteen Ogawa was studying English and photography and obtained his first camera before age twenty two. During his early days Ogawa was employed for six months by a photographer named Yoshiwara, but this studio has yet to be discovered.

Unsatisfied with his progress, Ogawa learnt English as a means to study photography overseas. In July 1882 he was hired aboard the American frigate Swatara and arrived Boston in 1882. During his nearly two year stay in America, Ogawa studied studio portraiture, carbon printing, the dry plate process and collotype printing in Boston, Washington and Philadelphia. In 1884 he returned to Japan and the following year opened his first photo studio, the Gyokujun-kan. In 1888 Ogawa established the Tsukiji Kampan Seizo Kaisha (Tsukiji Dry Plate Manufacturing Company) which manufactured dry plates for use by photographers. In 1889 he launched Japan's first collotype business, the Ogawa Shashin Seihan-Jo. These early businesses were partly funded by Viscount Nagamoto Okabe and Seibei Kajima, a wealthy amateur photographer. In 1889 Ogawa also helped to launch Kokka, an important arts journal that is still published to this day. The first six volumes from 1889 to 1902 featured Ogawa’s photographs of traditional Japanese relics in collotype format.

By 1890 Ogawa was on a successful career path. In 1891 he was commissioned to do a series of portraits on one hundred famous geisha of Tokyo to celebrate the opening of Tokyo's first skyscraper, the Ryounkaku. These photographs gained him notoriety for their artistry. Throughout the rest of the Meiji period Ogawa produced many lovely collotype titles too numerous to mention. These were illustrated with photographs by himself and other photographers like Kajima Seibei, William Kinnimond Burton, John Milne, Tamamura Kozaburo, and Herbert Ponting. One entitled "Some Japanese Flowers" published in 1896 is beautifully illustrated with hand colored collotype plates by Ogawa. Other projects he photographed include the 1893 world's fair in Chicago and the Imperial Palace in Beijing.

Ogawa played an active role in his printing company and photo studios well into the Taisho period. During his long career he perfected the collotype process, bringing it to a whole new level as an artform with the use of multi-strike printings, as well as the addition of hand coloring. As a result, Japanese collotypes have endured a legacy as the finest in the world even to this day.

In the past there has been some debate as to the correct spelling of his name. He sometimes went by Isshin Ogawa, but the correct spelling is Kazumasa Ogawa. He also became a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in England.

Full view of plate.