20th-Century Japanese Woodblock Prints
As the once-isolated nation of Japan entered the 20th century and began to assimilate a new, Westernized culture, demand for certain traditional handicrafts fell off significantly—among them, the iconic woodblock prints known in the West as ukiyo-e. Yet what seemed at first to be the death-knell of a unique art form turned out to be the dawning of another, as the path was cleared for a new kind of print: shin hanga. The exhibition Seven Masters: 20th-Century Japanese Woodblock Prints focuses on seven artists who played a significant role in the development of the “new print,” and whose works boldly exemplify this new movement. Drawing from the superb collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the exhibition features the spectacular beauty portraits of the artists Hashiguchi Goyō (1880–1921), Itō Shinsui (1898–1972), Yamakawa Shūhō (1898–1944), and Torii Kotondo (1900–1976); striking images of kabuki actors by Yamamura Kōka (Toyonari) (1886–1942) and Natori Shunsen (1886–1960); as well as the evocative landscapes of Kawase Hasui (1883–1957). The exhibition looks at these artists’ unrivaled work in print design, and includes a cache of pencil drawings and rare printing proofs to offer insight into the exacting process of woodblock printing.
Hashiguchi Goyō, Woman Combing Her Hair, March 1920, woodblock print; ink and color on paper with mica. Self-published. Carved by Koike Masazō. Printed by Somekawa Kanzō. Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of Ellen and Fred Wells, 2002.161.3. Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Natori Shunsen, The Actor Ichikawa Sadanji II as Narukami (from the series Creative Prints: Collected Portraits by Shunsen), 1926, woodblock print, ink and color on paper with mica and embossing. Published by Watanabe Shōzaburō. Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of Ellen and Fred Wells, X2004.2.11. Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Kawase Hasui, Snow at Kiyomizu Hall in Ueno, July 1929, woodblock print, ink and color on paper. Published by Kawaguchi Jirō. Carved by Maeda Kentarō. Printed by Komatsu Wasankichi. Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of Paul Schweitzer, P.77.28.10. Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Art.