|Born in Kofu (Yamanashi) into a family of textile merchants, Kusakabe Kimbei (1841-1934) moved to Yokohama in 1859 at the age of eighteen, where it seems he worked as colourist and then an assistant for both Baron von Stillfried and Felice Beato. In 1881 opened his own studio, first in the Bentendori district of Yokohama, moving to the Honmachi district in 1889. He also opened a branch in the Ginza district of Tokyo.
Around 1885 Kimbei acquired many of the negatives of his former teachers Beato and von Stillfried, adding the images to his own catalogue. Research has shown that he also did the same with the negatives of Uchida Kuichi and the views attributed to Adolfo Farsari, reprinting the images and including them along with his own work in souvenir albums with ornate, lacquered covers.
Kimbei’s images combined the aesthetics of traditional woodblock prints with delicate hand-colouring, in severely composed photographs which proved enormously popular with tourists and the export market. Although Beato and Stillfried’s work remained resolutely European in character, Kimbei – despite using similar techniques of staging his photographs – often achieved more authentically Japanese scenes, both in his groups and particularly in his landscapes.
Kimbei ceased operating around 1913, turning to Japanese painting in his later years. He died in 1934.
A delicately hand-coloured albumen print measuring 8.1” by 10.6” (205 mm by 269 mm). Photographer’s number and title in the negative.
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