20th CENTURY SHIN HANGA AND SOSAKA HANGA
JAPANESE WOODBLOCKS WHAT & WHY
The Meiji Era, 1868 to 1912, was a very bad time for Woodblock Print Artists in Japan. The Established Order of Master and Student was breaking down, there was some civil turmoil and war and an influx of European ideas, architecture and values.
In the Early 1900s a Genuine Woodblock Print could be purchased for less than the price of a glass of Saki.
At this time a group of new artists began to design woodblocks in a new way, breaking the old traditions of replicating, to some extent, their teacher’s work, and presenting landscapes, animals and other scenes in a totally new perspective. This visionary artists formed two main groups and their woodblocks were named Shin Hanga, meaning New Prints, and Sosaka Hanga, meaning Creative Prints.
For a background of how a woodblock print is created see my Guide on 19th Century Woodblocks as this guide assumes that the reader will have this basic knowledge.
TSUCHIYA KOITSU was born near Hamamatsu in 1870 and lived until 1949. He Moved to Tokyo when he was Fifteen years Old and was Soon a Student the Artist Kobayashi Kiyochika. He Lived and Studied with this Artist for 19 years Learning the Skills which Enabled him to Create the Amazing Landscape Scenes he is Famous For. He is most High Praised for his Ability to Use Light and Shadow to Great Advantage in His Woodblocks and this Skill Sets his Scenes Apart from Other Shin Hanga Artists of the Period.
His Woodblock have been published by Baba Nobuhiko, Doi Teiichi and Watanabe.
Sunset Glow at Tomonotsu Bay, Tsuchiya Koitsu, 1940, published by Watanabe.
KAWASE HASUI Lived from 1883 until 1957. He Most Highly Regarded for the Exquisite Colour, Amazing Perspective and Inspiring Ambiance of his wide Range of Landscape Woodblocks. During his Life he Created Over 600 Different Woodblock Scenes and he is Recognised as one of Most Prolific and Most Talented of Shin Hanga Artists from the Early 20th Century. It is no wonder that a Year Prior to his Death he was Honoured with the Title of a Living National Treasure.
Most of his woodblocks were published by Watanabe but he also had some of his work published by other companies including by Isetatsu, Bijutsusha, Kawaguchi and Sakai, Tokyo Shobido, Doi Teiichi, Kato and Kawaguchi and Sakai.
Morning at Mitohama, Kawase Hasui, 1952, published by Watanabe.
GIHACHIRO OKUYAMA was Born on 1907 and Lived until 1981. He studied art under Kasaka Gajin and during the difficult economic times of the 1920s made his living creating commercial designs for posters and advertising labels eventually establishing his own advertising company in 1931. At the same time as making a living in this manner he was very active in both the Sosaka and Shin Hanga Movements and creating woodblocks which were exhibited in within these Associations. In 1946 he established the Japan Print Institute – Nihon Hanga Kenkyusho – and he continued to work as a woodblock artist for most of his life. His prints display a fine and creative style and they are among the rarest of Shin Hanga woodblocks to be found today.
View of Mt Fuji, Gihachiro Okuyama, 1948, Onodera Printer Seal.
ITO TAKASHI lived from 1894 to 1982 and like, Hasui, studied painting under Kaburagi Kiyokata. He also studied under Yuki Somei at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. His landscapes display the unspoilt beauty of the Japanese Landscape, focussing on dramatic or exceptional colour in light or seasonal changes. He rarely includes humans and when he does he only shows one person to emphasise the isolation of the environment. His woodblocks are among the rarest of Shin Hanga artists as in his lifetime he only ever created about 80 scenes.Takegawa River at Dawn by Ito Takashi first published by Watanabe in 1932
TAKAHASHI HIROAKI SHOTEI lived from 1871 to 1945. He used a vaiety of names to sign his prints during his career and from 1907 until 1922 called himself exclusively Shotei. From this time he also signed himself Hiroaki and Komei. At the age of 52 years the fires created by the Great Earthquake of the time destroyed his life's work totaling 500 Woodblocks used in the printing of his art. He began again and focused his attention on landscape secens until he was lost in the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.
OHARA SHOSON was born in 1877 with the name Ohara Matao in the city of Kanazawa. Early in his life he studied Shijo painting with the artists Susuki Kason and changed his name to Koson, in recognition of his master. Around 1900 Ohara obtained a teaching position at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts and began sending his bird and flower paintings to the USA where he quickly gained recognition. In 1912 with a growing international audience, he changed his name again, this time to Shoson, and focussed all his energies on Woodblock prints with nature themes. He lived until 1945.
His woodblocks have been published by Kokkeido, Daikokuya, Watanabe, Kawaguchi and Sakai and Nishinomiya.
Detail of Cherry Tree and Owl under the Moon, Ohara Shoson, 1928, Published by Watanabe.
TAKEJI ASANO Lived from 1900 to 1999 and Graduated from the Kyoto School of Fine Arts in 1919 and then the Kyoto School of Painting in 1923. He was Influenced in his Early Years by Tsuchida Bakusen and Helped to Organise the Sosaka Hanga Society in 1929. His Classical Background Has Influenced his Woodblocks and his Incredible Creativity has Made Him One of the Great Shin Hanga Artists. Most of his prints were published by Unsodo but a few were published by Uchida and as well as these he carved and printed some of his own designs, which is rare among woodblock artists of this period.
Detail of Twilight in Nara, Takeji Asano, 1953, Published by Unsodo
SHIRO KASAMATSU Lived from 1898 to 1991. He was Born in Asakusa, Tokyo, and became a Student of Kiyokarta at the Age of 13. He is One of the Most Highly Respected of the Shin Hanga Artists Creating Many Landscape Scenes in a Unique and Individual Style. His Prints have been published by Watanabe, Kinjiro and Unsodo and from 1955 he self published a number of his own woodblocks.
Detail of Rising Moon at Katase River, Shiro Kasamatsu, 1953, Published by Unsodo.
TOSHIHIDE MIGITA was born in 1863 with the Name Toyohiko Migita in Oitaken, Shizuoka Province and at the age of 17 moved to Tokyo to be a student of Yoshitoshi. He also studied western style painting under Shinkuro. This amazing fusion of learning culminated in a large range of woodblock scenes from classic beautiful women to some extremely advanced landscapes in the latter years of his life depicting scenes of Meiji era Japan. These scenes make him a highly desirable inclusion to any collection of Shin Hanga woodblocks. He lived until 1925.
Interesting 1920s Toshihide Woodblock Showing a Scene in Kyoto.
MIYAKE HOHAKU was born in Kyoto and Lived from 1893 to 1957. He studied under Yamamoto Shunkyo at the Kyoto Municipal School of Fine Arts where he Excelled in Woodblock Prints. His Work is a Fusion of Modernistic Style and Creative Use of Shadow and Imagery with Ancient Themes is Highly Unusual in the World of Woodblock Prints, even among the Shin and Sosaka Hanga artists.
KOICHI OKUMURA lived from 1904 to 1974 and was one of the noted Circle of Kyoto Artsits who attended the Kyoto City Specialist School of Painting. In later life he became a Professor at the Kyoto City University of Arts
HIDEO NISHIYAMA Lived from 1911 to 1989 and was Born in Kyoto. He Graduated from the Kyoto City Specialist School of Painting and His Most Well Known Work was a Series of the Twelve Views of Kyoto Published by Unsodo in 1948.
Sunset in Setaishiyama, by Hideo Nishiyama, 1959 First Edition, Published by Unsodo.
TOMIKICHIRO TOKURIKI Lived from 1902 until 2000. He was the 12th generation of artists in his Family and was born in Kyoto. He graduated from the Kyoto City School of Fine Arts and the Kyoto City Specialist School of Painting in l924 and began his career as a painter later becoming engrossed in the art of woodblock prints. He was an ardent supporter on the Sosaka Hanga and Shin Hanga Movements and is one of the Most Highly Respected Woodblock Artists of the Twentieth Century. Around 1945 Tokuriki set up his Own Publishing Company, called Matsukyu Publishing, to Carve, Print and Distribute his Own and Other Sosaka and Shin Hanga Woodblocks.
KENJI KAWAI Lived from 1908 to 1995 and was Born in Kyoto. He Graduated from the Kyoto City Specialist School of Painting and Produced a Limited Number of Woodblocks all Displaying a Modernistic Style which was Unique for the Time and most published by Unsodo.
KOICHI OKADA was Born in 1907 and Created a Series of 12 Woodblocks with Scenes of Mount Fuji all Published by Unsodo in the 1950s.
Detail Mt Fuji from Nihondara, Koichi Okada, 1950s, Published by Unsodo
TOMITA KEISEN was born in Fukuoka in 1879 and lived until 1936. He studied classical Japanese pianting and became part of the Kyoto circle of artists contributing to the official Bunten and Teiten exhibitions. His woodblock prints are very rare.
All the Publishers of Woodblock Prints during the 20th Century used specific seals which have been well documented with full descriptions and dates of use.
WATANABE is the most well documented and has a series of seals which relate to dates of printing and these can all be found on the net. Just make a search for Watanabe Seals and you will find a number of sites with all the seals, full descriptions and dates of publication.
A similar Search for UCHIDA, UNSODO and Other Publishers of the Period will supply you with all the information necessary to date and authenticate most Shin Hanga Woodblocks.
In 1924 Japan was hit by a series of very severe earthquakes and almost all the carved woodblocks used to print a vast number of Shin Hanga artists' scenes were destroyed. So ANY woodblock prints from ANY Shin Hanga Artist printed prior to this series of earthquakes are VERY RARE and so VERY VALUABLE.
LATER PRINTINGS FROM ORIGINAL WOODBLOCKS
Unlike the recarved copies of Antique prints the later printings of Shin and Sosaka Hanga artist's work by the original publishers from the original carved woodblocks are exactly the same as the first editions except in better condition. There is no real premium in value to have anything but the first edition with the publisher's seal for the year of first publication in the case of Watanabe or the Date of release for Unsodo as whether printed in 1950, 1970 or 1990 it is still not the first edition and it has been printed from the same carved woodblocks. Both Unsodo and Watanabe still retain some original Woodblocks of their major Artists. They release limited numbers of these woodblocks periodically and they are Still RARE, COLLECTIBLE and Excellent Woodblock Prints. Their Value is, of course, Lower than First Edition woodblocks printed in the Year of first release but these Original carved Woodblocks will eventually be unable to be used so the number of these woodblocks is finite.
Unsodo does NOT include the Date in any later printings from Original Blocks.
Watanabe does usually include the date of original release but also has the Publication Seal relating to the time of publication.
THANKS FOR READING MY GUIDE
If you are interested in Japanese Woodblock Prints please read my Other Guides on Contemporary Artists and Antique Woodblock Prints.