Prints from Japan

Discover a selection of Japanese prints to enhance your interior decoration, whether modern or more traditional.

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  • Hasui Kawase
  • Katsushika Hokusai
  • Utagawa Kunisada
  • Koson Ohara
  • Tsukioka Yoshitoshi
  • Utagawa Hiroshige
  • Kitagawa Utamaro

    Kitagawa Utamaro (喜多川 歌麿) c. 1753 - October 31, 1806 was a Japanese painter, specializing in ukiyo-e. He is particularly known for his depictions of beautiful women (bijin-ga), but his work also includes many nature and animal scenes, as well as erotic albums (shunga).

    His work reached the West in the 19th century where it met with great success. He particularly influenced the Impressionists with his bold framing and the graphic design of his prints. He was then known as "Outamaro," a transposition according to the French spelling of the pronunciation of his name (a spelling that was adopted at the time in some other Western countries).

    He was nicknamed in 1891 by Edmond de Goncourt "the painter of green houses" (brothels), even though only a third of the very many prints known to be by him were actually devoted to the Yoshiwara (source wikidépia).

  • Hashiguchi Goyō

    Hashiguchi Kiyoshi was born in 1880 in Kagoshima. His father, Hashiguchi Kanemizu, was a samurai and amateur painter in the Shijo style. His father hired a painting teacher Kano in 1899 when Kiyoshi was ten years old. Kiyoshi then entered the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, from which he graduated, top of his class, in 1905. It was then that he chose the pseudonym Goyo, in reference to the five needle pine trees in his father's garden, which he was particularly fond of.

    The first commission he was given was the illustration and layout of Sōseki Natsume's novel I am a Cat in 1905. Subsequently, he was brought in to illustrate other books by Futabatei Shimei, Roan Uchida, Sōhei Morita, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Nagai Kafu and Kyōka Izumi.

    In 1907, Goyō was noticed for an ukiyo-e oil painting at Bunten's first exhibition in 1907; however, the public was less enthusiastic about his oil paintings in subsequent exhibitions.

    In 1911, he was again noticed for a ukiyo-e poster drawn for the Mitsukoshi department store. Goyō then became a serious follower of ukiyo-e. He read and studied original works and reproductions. In particular, his interest in the great classical ukiyo-e artists led him to write several articles on Utamaro, Hiroshige and Harunobu. From 1914, he contributed further articles to various studies of ukiyo-e published in the magazines Journal of Art (Bijutsu shinpo) and Ukiyo-e.

    In 1915, urged by the publisher Shin-Hanga Watanabe Shozaburo, he drew a print intended to be printed under Watanabe's direction: this was The Bath (Yuami). While Watanabe aspired to continue this collaboration, Goyō decided otherwise. In 1916-1917, he became the supervisor of the reproduction of 12 volumes entitled Japanese Prints (Yamato nishiki-e) and appropriated the techniques of the engravers and printers. At the same time, he drew from live models. From 1918 until his death, he personally directed the engraving, printing and publishing of his own work. During this period he made 13 prints - four landscapes, one nature scene with ducks and eight portraits of women. His body of work thus numbers fourteen prints, if we include The Bath.

    In the late 1920s, Hashiguchi, whose health was already fragile, contracted meningitis. He supervised his last work The Hot Spring Hotel from his deathbed, but was unable to complete it in person. He died in February 1921. The master's untimely death ended a brief two-year period during which he had produced all of his masterpieces.

    However, Goyō had left several sketches from which his older brother and nephew created seven more prints. The engraving and printing of these were commissioned to Maeda Kentaro and Hirai Koichi. Many years later, Goyō's older brother used other drawings to create ten new prints. These were published in limited numbers with the same quality as the past prints. The printing was supervised by Hashiguchi Yasuo, Goyō's nephew.

    Goyō Hashiguchi's prints are of extreme technical quality. As soon as they were published, they were sold very easily, despite their very high prices. The wooden blocks that were used to print the fourteen original prints and many of the prints themselves were destroyed during the 1923 Kantō earthquake. As a result, Goyō's works have become the most prized of all Shin-Hanga prints today. Nevertheless, reprints of Goyō's prints are also on the market today, at a much lower price. Most of these reprints are marked with a small seal in the side margins, unlike the original prints. (source wikidépia)

  • Takahashi Hiroaki

    Takahashi Hiroaki known as Shotei (高橋 弘明, 1871-1945) was a Japanese painter born in the Asakusa district of Tokyo as Matsumoto Katsutaro and then adopted at the age of 9 by the Takahashi family whose name he took.

    His uncle Matsumoto Fuko trained him in traditional Nihonga painting from the age of 9 by having him copy ancient works. His go (artist name) "Shotei" is said to come from his uncle because the name "Matsumoto" begins with a character that reads either "sho" or "Matsu".

    Takahashi's story is inseparable from that of Watanabe Shozaburo, the creator of the Shin-Hanga style. Watanabe, the most famous print publisher of the twentieth century, never left Japan but knew how to create the images that would appeal to European and American enthusiasts, images that offered a romantic vision of Japan that had ceased to exist by the end of the Edo period. Takahashi's drawings were the spearhead of his production. Watanabe hired him in 1907 and made him do, under his control, the first emblematic drawings of the Shin-Hanga style. Takahashi then took the name of "Shotei" and specialized in landscape drawing. Tourists and foreign collectors nostalgic for "old Japan" immediately fell in love with the prints signed with his name.

    From 1921, he began to use the go of "Hiroaki" and "Komei" while continuing to use the seal "Shotei" during the 1930s, as this name was already well known abroad. Before the Kanto earthquake in 1923, Shotei drew 500 prints for Watanabe of which only 11 are oban. The other prints range from chuban size to very small size. Watanabe's store and studio were totally destroyed by the fire after the earthquake. The publisher and his artists had to start from scratch. After 1923, Shôtei designed 250 prints. Some were reproductions of those whose engraved plates had burned in the fire and which the publisher had printed in brighter colors, thus adapting them to the taste of the amateurs.

    It would seem that Watanabe left Takahashi in the shadows, confining him to a more commercial and therefore less innovative production while he pushed Kawase Hasui, Shiro Kasamatsu, Itō Shinsui, Natori Shunsen, Koson Ohara and all those who became the stars of the Shin-Hanga. The reason for this difference in treatment may have originated in the fact that Watanabe, as a very astute businessman, practiced a form of specialization. Takahashi's role would have been to feed the publisher's catalog with a quality production more in line with the market's taste in order to bring back the subsidies necessary to hire the craftsmen the house needed permanently to meet the demand. Takahashi accepted this role presumably without complaint as their very long collaboration suggests that it was satisfactory to both.

    It would also seem that Hiroaki was the artist who best endured Watanabe's dirigisme. The artists made paintings that craftsmen converted into prints under the control of Watanabe himself. Not all of them were able to accept the rigid way in which the publisher directed their work. Some, such as Hiroshi Yoshida and Hashiguchi Goyo, soon ceased their collaboration with him or began to work in parallel with other less interventionist publishers.

    However, Takahashi also worked with other publishers, probably to escape the rigidity and limitations imposed on him by Watanabe for a while. It seems that he had more creative freedom with Fusui Gabo, for whom he drew larger prints, oban among them, than the formats in which Watanabe had specialized him. In addition, at Fusui, he also acted as an editor for Ukiyo-e reproductions. In the 1930's he also made 200 prints for Shobido Tanaka including 12 mitsugiri-ban (18 × 39.5 cm) and about 180 smaller prints. It has been said that Watanabe did not give Takahashi the same chance to develop his talent as other artists because Takahashi was naturally inclined to an old-fashioned style of creation. Looking at the 29 oban he made for Watanabe towards the end of their collaboration and the 23 drawn for Fusui Gabo, this assumption is not true.

    Takahashi thus leaves a limited amount of oban, but his numerous so-called "commercial" mitsugiri-ban and chuban make up a rich legacy. Moreover, he was famous in Japan and as much abroad.

    The date and circumstances of his death are not precisely known. According to some sources, he was one of the victims of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima while he was staying with his daughter who lived in that city. More likely, according to his family records, he died on February 11, 1945 of pneumonia.(source wikidépia)

  • Hiroshi Yoshida

    Hiroshi Yoshida (吉田 博, Yoshida Hiroshi) (September 19, 1876, died April 5, 1950) was a twentieth-century Japanese painter and woodcutter. Along with Hasui Kawase, he is considered one of the greatest shin hanga style artists and is particularly valued for his landscape prints. Yoshida travels extensively and is known for his paintings of non-Japanese subjects painted in the traditional Japanese woodblock print style including the Taj Mahal, the Swiss Alps, the Grand Canyon and other national parks in the United States.

    Hiroshi Yoshida was born in the city of Kurume, Kyushu, on September 19, 1876 with the name Hiroshi Ueda1. He showed an early predisposition for art, a predisposition encouraged by his adoptive father, a public school painting teacher. He was sent to Kyoto at the age of nineteen to study with Tamura Shoryu, a renowned teacher of Western style painting. Then he studied with Koyama Shotaro in Tokyo for another three years.

    In 1899, Yoshida exhibited for the first time in America at the Detroit Institute of Arts, then visited Boston, Washington, Providence (Rhode Island) and Europe. In 1920, Yoshida presented his first woodblock prints, first at the Watanabe Print Shop, organized by Watanabe Shozaburo (1885-1962), publisher and advocate of the shin-hanga movement. But Yoshida's collaboration with Watanabe was short-lived in part because of the 1923 Kantō earthquake.

    In 1925, he hired a group of printmakers and painters and opened his own studio. The prints are made under his close supervision. Yoshida combined the collaborative system of ukiyo-e with the Sōsaku hanga principle of "artist's prints" and founded a third school, distinguishing itself from the shin-hanga and sōsaku-hanga movements.

    Hiroshi Yoshida was trained in the tradition of Western oil painting that developed in Japan during the Meiji era. He often uses the same wooden printing blocks and varies the color to suggest different moods. The best example of this is the Sailboats in 1921. His extensive travels and his knowledge of the Americans had a considerable influence on his art. In 1931, a series of prints was published representing scenes from Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Singapore. Six of these views are dedicated to the Taj Mahal with different colors to suggest various moods.(source wikidépia)

  • Utagawa Kuniyoshi

    Son of a silk dyer, he was born in 1797 under the name of Yoshizo. In his youth, he probably assisted his father, providing drawings of the pieces to be dyed, and thus naturally turned to the art world.

    He first studied with Kuninao, and some of his works attracted the attention of one of the great Japanese masters of printmaking, Toyokuni, who admitted him to his studio in 1811, and of whom he became one of the main students. He remained an apprentice until 1814, when he took the name Kuniyoshi and established himself as an independent artist.

    Like other artists of the Utagawa school, he began by making prints for theaters, but did not meet with public success. He then lived several difficult years, having to go, to earn a living, to repair and resell used tatami.

    He met by chance Kunisada Utagawa, who had been his classmate and was then living a prosperous life. Believing that his own artistic talent was superior to Kunisada's, he was encouraged to redouble his efforts. Kunisada and Kuniyoshi, between whom there was no resentment, were later to collaborate on several series.

    He produced several well-received heroic triptychs, and in 1827 he began the series that would bring him recognition: the Suikoden, or Hundred and Eight Chinese Heroes. Success followed in several areas: in the early 1830s he produced excellent landscapes and in the 1840s numerous triptychs of bijin and heroes.

    He is also known for his drawings of cats, which were his favorite animals. A drawing by his student Kyosai shows Kuniyoshi's studio full of cats. Kuniyoshi himself drew pictures of them which show an amazing sympathy with his cats, and he willingly depicted them in the corners of his prints under the slightest pretext.

    In 1842, the Tenpo reform, intended to enforce traditional morality in the world of theater and fine arts, forbade images representing courtesans, geishas or actors. Although he was arrested, Kuniyoshi got off with a fine.

    In the 1850s, the quality of his works began to decline. The great earthquake of 1855, after which he returned home late and was given up for dead by his family and workshop members, marked the end of his great period. Suffering from illness and depression, he produced little from then on. He died in Edo in 1861 (source wikidépia)