color woodblock print; signed within the keyblock, Charles Hovey Pepper with artist's seal numbered '03' and publisher's seal Tsuta (ivy) seal of Kobayashi Bunshichi at lower right, 1903
12 1/4 by 9 1/4 in., 31 by 23.5 cm
Charles Hovey Pepper was born in 1864 in Waterville, Maine, where his father, Dr. George Pepper, was a clergyman and later became the President of Colby College from 1882-1887. After graduating from The Coburn Classical Institute in 1884, Pepper attended Colby where he completed a bachelors of arts in 1889 and a masters of arts in 1891. He studied at the Art Students League in New York from 1890-1893, and then in Paris at the Académie Julian from 1893-1895, the same school that Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922) had attended four years earlier. Pepper stayed in Paris after leaving the academy where he continued to paint and enjoy recognition for his work; his paintings were selected for exhibition at the Paris Salon in 1894, 1895, 1897, and 1898. While in Paris Pepper began collecting Japanese woodblock prints, which must have brought him in contact with Siegfried Bing (1838-1905), a prominent art dealer who played a significant role in promoting Japonisme and in the development of the art nouveau style. In 1897, Bing gave Pepper his first solo exhibition at his famous gallery, Maison de l'Art Nouveau.
Pepper returned to Massachusetts in 1899 and settled with his wife in Concord . In 1903 they embarked on a year-long tour of Asia and the Middle East. His first destination was Japan, where he stayed for several months to collect and study Japanese paintings and woodblock prints. This is the same year that Dow visited Japan, and Helen Hyde (1868-1919) set up her new residence in Tokyo. Shortly after his arrival, Pepper visited Hyde who advised him to take a house in Nikko for a period, where a local contact arranged three models for him. The result was a set of four figural color woodblock prints which were printed by the ukiyo-e dealer and publisher, Kobayashi Bunshichi. When Dow arrived in Japan his first stop was Kobayashi's Yokohama shop, where he was shown the Pepper prints which were in production (Meech and Weisberg, pp.156-163)
In 1905, Pepper wrote a small reference book, Japanese Color Prints, which was published by Boston dealer Walter Kimball, and included detailed explanations on Japanese printmaking history and techniques. Most of Pepper's extensive collection of Japanese woodblock prints (along with some of his own original prints) were eventually donated to Colby College and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Julia Meech & Gabriel P. Weisberg, Japonisme Comes to America: The Impact on the Graphic Arts 1876-1925, pp. 156-163, pl. 115