Size: image 9 in. x 10 3/4 in. (228 mm x 273 mm) / plate and mat 11 in. x 15 3/4 in. (279 mm x 400 mm).
Item#: SD-014 Artist: Kazumasa Ogawa
Image or title: Japanese chrysanthemums from Ogawa's series entilted "Some Japanese Flowers".
Date: 1896 Medium: multi-color strike collotype with hand coloring. Price: ¥35,000 JPY

Description: Superb large format colored collotype by Kazumasa Ogawa. From the 1896 publication Japan Described and Illustrated by the Japanese (Boston: Millet). These same photographs were also published in collotype in the 1896 edition of Some Japanese Flowers. Japanese photo great Ogawa was one of the Meiji Period's (1867-1912) most successful photographers. He created a publishing house in Tokyo for the production of collotype photo books. His multi-striked hand colored collotype plates rival the finest gravures of his day.

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: original flaws created during the printing of this plate include a coloring blemish in the lower left margin, as well as an accidental brush stroke line through the lower center portion of the image (stem of flowers). Other than those flaws this print is in very good condition.

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.