Toshihide Migita, 1863-1925, was a Japanese illustrator and woodblock artist. Among his woodblock print oeuvre are also a large number of designs from the Sino-Japanese (1984/95) and the Russo-Japanese war (1904/05).
Like most woodblock artists of his time, Toshihide Migita took part in the creation of war prints depicting the events of the Sino-Japanese war of 1894/95 and the Russo-Japanese war of 1904/05.
Among the Japanese war prints those from the Russo-Japanese war are more interesting for collectors for two reasons. First, the prints from the Russo-Japanese war are rare. By then photography had replaced the woodblock prints as news media, and the public had little interest in woodblock prints. And secondly, the Russo-Japanese war was dominated by sea battles. Therefore among these prints one can find many naval scenes. Collectors like them.
The format used was nearly exclusively the triptych. The designs shown here are famous.
The full title of this tripych is:
"Lieutenant Commander Yamanaka, Chief Gunner of Our Ship Fuji, Fights Fiercely in the Naval Battle at the Entrance to Port Arthur."
The Fuji was a modern 12,000 ton battle ship built in Great Britain in 1897. The Japanese fleet was mostly built at British shipyards and was superior to the old-fashioned Russian ships. The Russian Pacific fleet was trapped at Port Arthur. After a long siege and several unsuccessful attempts of the Russian fleet to break out from the harbor, Port Arthur fell into the hands of the Japanese army on January 2, 1905.
This print is rather unusual as it shows the battle from the view of Russian soldiers. The war on land was fought mainly in Manchuria with a great number of casualties on both sides. But in the end the Japanese gained the upper hand before the Russian army could get reinforcements via the TransSibirian railroad which had not yet been completed by the time.
The Russian Empire had ordered the Baltic fleet to the Pacific for reinforcement and to relieve Port Arthur. The Russian fleet had to take the long way around Cape Horn as the British blocked the Suez Canal. Great Britain was at that time an ally of the Japanese although they did not take part in any combat activities.
By the time the Baltic fleet arrived in the Yellow Sea, Port Arthur had fallen several weeks ago. The Russian fleet with altogether 38 ships tried to reach the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok. But they were intercepted by the Japanese fleet and were nearly completely destroyed in the naval battle of Tsushima on May 27-28, 1905.
This triptych shows a Japanese torpedo boats firing at the Russian ships and sinking three enemy battle ships off Port Arthur.
Author: Dieter Wanczura