This section introduces a range of Japanese woodblock print artists whose work comes through our gallery.
1880 - 1921
Goyo Hashiguchi, a painter and printmaker, was one of the key artists of Shin Hanga (New Print) movement. Goyo was born in Kagoshima prefecture as his real name, Kiyoshi. Kiyoshi was taught by his father from the age of ten in the style of traditional Kano painting. After moving to Tokyo and naming himself Goyo, he majored in western oil painting at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. During this period, through the eminent author Soseki Natsume’s introduction, he illustrated in the famous haiku magazine Hototogisu and took charge of not only Soseki, but also a number of binding pictures of other famous authors’ works. Thereafter, he gained a reputation after his oil paintings won prizes in several famous exhibitions.
From the Taisho period, he also became well-known as an Ukiyo-e researcher. In the process of his research, he contested the concept of the art school, which had begun around the late Meiji era, it was believed that the originality of woodblock prints would be best brought out by artists themselves undertaking all the production process (i.e. designing, carving and printing). The publisher Watanabe Shozaburo advocated the Shin Hanga movement, which was supported the advantage of the traditional division of labours between the artist, the carver and the printer. Watanabe published Goyo’s “Woman in Bath” as the first production of his venture. Without the use of shading and using only defined lines, Goyo masterfully depicted a woman’s voluptuous body and a graceful charm. From the piece, we are able to witness how the master of carving and printing displayed their ample great ability under Goyo’s supervision.
Goyo published polychrome woodblock prints typified by “Woman Applying Make-up” and was renowned as “Utamaro of the Taisho era”. Meanwhile he also exerted himself to the project of Ukiyo-e masterpiece reproductions in order to popularise Ukiyo-e. In 1920, although Goyo completed ten prints including “A Woman Combing her Hair” he died suddenly the following year at the age of 41.
Despite a small number of his works (only thirteen O-ban size prints), with its elegance and a great deal of subtlety, his pictures of Beauty have made Goyo highly appraised as one of the best Taisho artists in both Japan and overseas.
0 - 1890
Ginko Adachi was a printmaker during the Meiji period. His first Go was Shosetsusai and produced 50 of actor prints in 1874 with this name. Ginko became famous for triptych war print of The Satsuma Rebellion (Seinan Senso) in 1877. He then changed his name to Adachi and published ‘The Famous Places of Tokyo’. His other works include prints on the Sino-Japan War, press coverage of events prints and female genre prints.
1907 - 1981
Gihachiro Okuyama is a printmaker and graphic designer, also known as a Sosaku hanga and a Shin hanga artist. Apart from his production of modern prints, Gihachiro was interested in traditional Japanese prints, and produced numerous reproductions of old masters. He also worked on a series of woodblock prints based on European paintings, such as Vincent Van Gogh’s wildly known ‘Sun Flowers’.
He was born in Yamagata prefecture in the early 20th Century. During the 1920s, Gihachro started his career designing commercial posters and advertisements. By 1930s, he was strongly inspired by the philosophy of Kendo Ishii, a well-known Japanese traditional woodblock print researcher. This encouraged him to produce works based on traditional prints. In 1946, Gihachiro established the Japanese Hanga Institution with other artists in order to re-establish Japanese traditional printing with their great techniques, which gradually lost popularity in Japan. He contributed to make a series of ’53 stations of Tokaido’, however, the project was not financially successful and the Institution had to be closed down. Despite this failure, the artist constituted with his own prints in the studio in 1954.
1859 - 1920
Gekko worked as a decorator of lacquer wares and pottery, as well as an illustrator for books and newspapers. These experiences made him a versatile artist and helped him develop his own style when he turned to printmaking. It is often pointed out that the uniqueness of his style might have caused some problems for carvers and printers, as his designs often resembled that of water colour and oil paintings, not the traditional ukiyo-e-style prints in which lines were clear and areas of the same colour were separated.
In kacho-e (images of flowers and birds), one of his major subjects, he mastered the art of depicting the details of birds’ feathers.
After the Sino-Japanese war erupted, Gekko took up another subject and started creating war prints. As a war correspondent for a newspaper company, he accompanied the troops to the battlefields, made sketches of the battle scenes and turned them into prints back at home in Japan.
Gekko favoured a variety of subjects alongside reporting on the war: flowers and birds, landscapes, beauties, animals and family scenes. His print series, “Beauties at Famous Places”, was published in the early 20th century. He was awarded a gold medal at 1904’s St Louis World’s Fair for selections from his landscape series, ‘Gekko’s One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji”.