Takato Yamamoto

Takato Yamamoto, “Saint Sebastian (聖セバスチャン)”, 2005, Woodblock Print

Takao Yamamoto is a japanese artist born in 1960 and who experimented with the Ukiyo-e Pop style and further refined and developed that style in order to create what he calls the  Heisei estheticism style.

Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs and landscapes, tales from history, the theatre and pleasure quarters. It is the main artistic genre of woodblock printing in Japan.

Yamamoto usually portrays famous occidental myths, such as Salome or Saint Sebastian. His graphic depictions of sex and death remind the work of the most controversial artist of the Art Nouveau era and of Symbolist painters such as Gustave Moreau or Aubrey Beardsley.

Ando Hiroshige

Ando Hiroshige, “Suido Bridge and Suruga Hill”, Number 63 from the “One Hundred Views of Famous Places in Edo” Series, 1857, Color Woodcut, Chazen Museum of Art

Ando Hiroshige was a Japanes ukiyo-e artist, considered the last great master of that tradition. He is best known for his landscapes, such as the series “The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido” and “The Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kiso Kaido”, and for his depictions of birds and flowers. The subjects of his work was atypical of the genre, whose typical focus was on beautiful women, popular actors, and scenes of the urban pleasure districts of Japan’s Edo period.

In 1856, Hiroshige retired from the world,  becoming a Buddhist monk; this was the year he began his “One Hundred Views of Famous Places in Edo” series.  He died aged 62 during the great Edo cholera epidemic of 1858 and was buried in a Zen Buddhist temple in Asakusa.

Okiie Hashimoto

Okiie Hashimoto, “Sand Garden Scene”, 1959, Wood Block Print, Edition of 60

Japanese printmaker Okiie Hashimoto graduated from Tokyo School of Fine Art in 1924 with training in Western-style oil painting. He also studied with the printmaker Haratsuka Un’ichi; but it wasn’t untill the 1930s that Hashimoto began to make woodblocks in any great number. After Hashimoto retired from his teaching career in 1955, he concentrated on his printmaking.

Hashimoto’s prints from the period between 1957 and 1966 represent a particular phase of his work which was imbued with complex perspectives and drawn with aspects of Western abstraction. He used modernism with its abstract tendencies to show a subtle view of reality.

Hiroyuki Tajima

Hiroyuki Tajima, “Unforgettable Altar B”, Color Woodblock, 1984 Edition of 50

Hiroyuki Tajima was was born in Tokyo in 1911 and graduated from Nihon University in 1932. In 1943, he graduated from the Western-style painting division of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. Tajima  created his first print in 1946, and joined the Bijutsu Bunka Kyokai’  a group dedicated to exploring and reviving the abstract and surrealist painting ideals that had been suppressed during WWII. He  also studied with Nagase Yoshi, an artist of the Sosaku Hanga school. In 1963, Tajima became a member of the Nihon Hanga Kyokai, the Japanese Print Association.

In order to create his unique woodblocks Tajima developed his own ink using powdered color mixed with the plastic medium phenol formaldehyde resin (Bakelite). He uses this ink for a pattern block and then prints again with a water-based ink or dye, which color the areas not printed by his special water-resistant ink.

“Every Tajima work seems to glow from behind, as though it incorporated a fluorescent light shielded by a mysteriously textured fabric. … Tajima’s technique consists of brushing intensely colored dyes over a dark-colored medium, imparting luminosity to the white areas while enriching the basic colors of the print. The textured areas fade off into dark planes, seeming to float on a cool liquid. Thus the fascinating, bubbly shapes are set off by simple, relaxing ground forms. In this end, this rare combination of intricacy and confident simplicity makes Tajima’s work both exciting and reassuring.” -artist, author, and art curator Francis Blakemore

Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Takagi Toranosuke Capturing a Kappa Underwater in the Tamura River”, No Date, Edo Period

Takagi Toranosuke appears in at least one other print by Kuniyoshi and one by Kuniyoshi’s pupil Yoshitoshi: both in the Lyon Collection of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Both have short texts describing him as a samurai originally from Hyūga Province who wandered through Japan and fought various monsters. It seems likely that he is a fictional character, possibly inspired by the historical figures Takagi Oriemon Shigetoshi, who founded the Hontai Hōshin Ryū school of martial arts in the seventeenth century, and his successor as head of the school, Takagi Umanosuke Shigesada.

Takagi Toranosuke, a native of Hyūga and an expert in the martial arts, is seen struggling with a kappa or kawatarō (also known as a suiko (waterbaby)). A kappa is a composite amphibious creature said to be a native of Kyushu. It has the shell of a tortoise, scaly legs, webbed feet and most mystifying of all, an ape-like head with a hollow depression in its crown that contains a strange fluid that provides the kappa with its strength. It tends to be harmless, but if one remembers to bow to the kappa it is forced to return the bow, thus losing its potent fluid and becoming powerless. Even as late as the 19th century, it was still widely believed that kappa actually existed.

Colin See-Paynton

Colin See-Paynton, “The Hare and Moonshadows”, Woodcut, Edition of 75, 12.7 x 17.8 cm, Private Collection

In 1972, See-Paynton moved to a remote farmhouse in Wales, on to which he built his studio. Entirely self-taught as an engraver, he began to make prints in 1980 and has since produced over 250 editions.

Colin has brought a new vitality to one of the earliest forms of printmaking- woodcuts. Although his work is based on the meticulous observation of the natural world, his talent is to invent compositions which distil the ecological and behavioural relationships of the species and their habitats.

He uses his knowledge and imagination to construct engravings of great complexity and refinement and has evolved something new by the patterning and layering of his images. Later compositions, particularly those from an underwater viewpoint, use an increasingly abstract and fluid line to capture the fast and fleeting movements of birds and fish.

Albrecht Durer

Albrecht Durer, The Men’s Bathhouse”, Woodcut, 1496, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Men’s Bath is an unusual print for its time since this is the only graphic image that was made for sale of naked men in such a scene.  Even more odd is the fact that these men are depicted naked in public, in a city that religiously regulated clothing down to the number of pearls allowed to be on any garment and where all the inhabitants needed to be fully covered.

It is believed that the figure with only a risqué codpiece covering his genitals and playing the flute is Dürer himself because he is bearded.  The two men in the foreground are believed to be the very sexually permissive  Paümgartner brothers, Stephen and Lucas, who Dürer depicted in the Paümgartner Altar.

Tom Killion

Five Woodcut Engravings by Tom Killion

Californian-born Tom Killion takes inspiration from 19th century Japanese prints to recreate epic engravings of American landscapes. He describes his technique, tongue-in-cheek, as “faux ukiyo-ë” to emphasize his aesthetic debt to the landscape prints of early 19th century Japan, but also to acknowledge his embrace of early 20th century European / American wood-engraving and book illustration techniques and styles as well. Among his influences are both the Japanese ukiyo-ë landscape masters Hokusai and Hiroshige, but also European and American wood-engravers such as Eric Gill and Rockwell Kent.

Killion carves his images into cherry, all-shina plywood, Amsterdam linoleum and other block materials using Japanese handtools. He prints his often elaborate, multi-colored images on handmade Japanese kozo papers using oil-based inks and a German hand-cranked proofing press.

Alison Saar

Alison Saar, “Snakeman”, 1994, Woodcut and Lithograph Printed in Color on Oriental Paper, Image and sheet: 27 7/8 x 37 1/8 in.

Alison Saar is an American sculptor, painter and installation artist. She was born in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in Laurel Canyon, California. Her parents were Betye Saar, a well-known African-American artist, and Richard Saar, an art conservationist. . She received a BA from Scripps College (Claremont, CA) in 1978, having studied African and Caribbean art with Dr. Samella Lewis. Saar’s thesis was on African-American folk art. She received an MFA from Otis Art Institute, now known as Otis College of Art and Design  in Los Angeles, California in 1981.

Her sculptures and installations explore themes of African cultural diaspora and spirituality, and her studies of Latin American, Caribbean and African art and religion have informed her work. Saar’s fascination with vernacular folk art and ability to build an oasis of beauty from cast-off objects are evident in her sculptures and paintings.

Andrea Rich

Andrea Rich, “Thistle”, 2001, Woodcut on Hosho Paper, 50.8 x 60.1 cm, Edition: 4/30; Collection of Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin

Since 1980, internationally recognized woodcut printmaker and artist Andrea Rich has traveled the world observing wildlife in their natural habitat. Madagascar, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Africa and Europe are some of the places outside North America that she has visited in search of interesting subjects. She then designs her drawing based upon personal observations in the field, carves and hand-pulls prints in her studio in Santa Cruz California.

A typical print requires ten to twenty blocks. Working in the studio full time, a print could take two or three weeks to design and carve the blocks, and another two weeks to press as many as 20 colors on each print. Editions of her work generally number 30 or less.

Kawase Hasui

 

Kawase Hasui “Night Rain at Omiya”, 1930

Born in May of 1883, Hasui Kawase was one of modern Japan’s most important and prolific printmakers. He was a prominent founder of the shin-hanga, or new prints, movement whose artists executed traditional subjects in a style influenced by Western art.

At the age of twenty six, Hasui ceased working at his family’s rope and thread wholesaling business and studied Western style painting under Yōga-style artist Okada Saburōsuke for two years. Hasui then approached Nihonga artist Kiyokata Kaburagi, the leading master of the bijin-ga genre, to teach him; it was Kiyokata who gave him the name ‘Hasui’, which translates as ‘water gushing from a spring’.

At the studio of Kiyokata, Hasui studied traditional Japanese painting and ukiyo-e, a genre of art which flourished from the seventeenth though the nineteenth centuries.. He worked almost exclusively on landscape and townscape prints based on sketches and watercolors he made during travels around Japan. Hasui’s work depicted not only those famous places typical of early ukiyo-e masters, but also featured locales which were obscure in urbanizing Japan. Unlike other artists, he did include the captions and titles that were standard in traditional ukiyo-e prints. Among Hasui’s most original and best known works were his snow scenes rendered with naturalistic light, shade and texture. 

During a career which spanned over forty years, Hasui designed approximately six hundred-twenty prints and worked closely with publisher Shōzaburō Watanabe, an advocate of the shin-hanga movement. Through the efforts of American art patron Robert Miller, his work became widely known in the West. In late 1953, the government Committee for the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Treasures commissioned Hasui to make a collection of traditionally-made prints. The production of these works were carefully documented and, in 1956, he was named a Japanese Living National Treasure. 

Hasui Kawase died on November 27, 1957 at the age of seventy-four. He left a large collection of his woodblock prints and watercolors, many of which are linked to the woodblock prints, oil paintings, traditional hanging scrolls, and several folding screens. In 1979, Author Narazaki Munishige published Hasui’s biography and compiled the first comprehensive, annotated listing of all his known works

Paul Landacre

Wood Engraving Landscapes by Paul Landacre

Although he took some life-drawing classes at the Otis Art Institute between 1923 and 1925, Paul Landacre largely taught himself the art of printmaking. He experimented with the technically demanding art of carving linoleum blocks and, eventually, woodblocks for both wood engravings and woodcuts. Landacre’s fascination with printmaking and his ambition to make a place for himself in the world of fine art coalesced in the late 1920s when he met Jake Zeitlin.

Zeitlin’s antiquarian bookshop in Los Angeles, a cultural hub that survived into the 1980s. included a small gallery space for the showing of artworks, primarily prints and drawings. It is there in 1930 that Landacre was given his first significant solo exhibition. Zeitlin’s ever-widening circle of artists came to include Edward Weston, a photographer who shared the modernist vision that so captivated Landacre. Well-connected to the New York art scene, Zeitlin associated himself with the circle of artists represented by Carl Zigrosser, director of the Weyhe Gallery in Manhattan and, later, curator of prints at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

By 1936 Zigrosser considered Landacre to be “one of the few graphic artists worth watching” in America, and included him among his portraits of 24 contemporary American printmakers in his seminal work, “The Artist in America” (Knopf 1942). Elected a member of the National Academy in 1946, Landacre was honored in 1947 with a solo exhibition of his wood engravings at the Smithsonian Museum, its graphic arts division under the curatorial leadership of Jacob Kainen.

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Jürgen Wittdorf

Woodcut Prints and Linocuts by Jürgen Wittdorf

Jürgen Wittdorf is a German painter and graphic artist, mainly known through his book illustrations and large sized woodcuts and linocuts. In 1960-1961, he created a series called “For the Youth”, which portrayed young hooligans and youths either dressed in jeans or posed in full frontal nudity. This “Westernization” earned Wittdorf criticisms from the German state.

Note: An interesting and extensive article to read on the attitudes regarding homosexuality in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) during the last half of the twentieth-century is Eric A. Gordon’s homage to his friend Michael Kuschnia which was published in the January 2021 online People’s World. The article, which covers their fifty-year friendship and correspondences can be found at: https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/homage-to-michael-my-east-german-friend-of-half-a-century/

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Woodcut Prints by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (月岡 芳年; also named Taiso Yoshitoshi 大蘇 芳年)  was a Japanese artist who lived from 1839-1892. He is widely recognized as the last great master of the ukiyo-e genre of woodblock printing and painting. Yoshitoshi is also regarded as one of the form’s greatest innovators. His career spanned two eras – the last years of Edo period Japan, and the first years of modern Japan following the Meiji Restoration. Like many Japanese, Yoshitoshi was interested in new things from the rest of the world, but over time he became increasingly concerned with the loss of many aspects of traditional Japanese culture, among them traditional woodblock printing.

By the end of his career, Yoshitoshi was in an almost single-handed struggle against time and technology. As he worked on in the old manner, Japan was adopting Western mass reproduction methods like photography and lithography. Nonetheless, in a Japan that was turning away from its own past, Yoshitoshi almost singlehandedly managed to push the traditional Japanese woodblock print to a new level, before it effectively died with him.

His life is perhaps best summed up by John Stevenson: “Yoshitoshi’s courage, vision and force of character gave ukiyo-e another generation of life, and illuminated it with one last burst of glory.”

—John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, 1992

M. C. Escher

M. C. Escher, “Snakes”, 1969, Woodcut Print, 49.8 x 44.7 cm,

“Snakes” is a woodcut print by the Dutch artist Maurits Cornelia Escher. First printed in July of 1969, the print was Escher’s last before his death on March 27, 1972.

Maurits Cornelia Escher was a Dutch graphic artist who made mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints. In 1918, he studied at the Technical College of Delft. Escher then attended Haarlem School of Architecture and Decorative Arts from 1919 to 1922, studying drawing and the art of woodcut printing.

Escher’s work is inescapably mathematical. This has caused a disconnect between his full-on popular fame and the lack of esteem with which he has been viewed in the art world. His originality and mastery of graphic techniques are respected, but his works have been thought too intellectual and insufficiently lyrical by critics. However, Escher’s narrative themes and his use of perspective have made his work highly attractive to the public.

M. C. Eschers woodcut “Snakes” depicts a disc made up of interlocking circles that grow progressively smaller towards the center and towards the edge. There are three snakes laced through the edge of the disc. The image is printed in three colours: green, brown and black. The use of snakes and the color palette of this composition recalls an earlier 1960 woodcut by the artist,”Möbius Strip I”.

The print haa rotational symmetry based on the number three, comprising a single wedge-shaped image repeated three times in a circle. This means that it was printed from three blocks that were rotated on a pin to make three impressions each. Close inspection of the print reveals the central mark left by the pin.

In several of his earlier works, Escher explored the limits of infinitesimal size and infinite number by actually carrying through the rendering of smaller and smaller figures to the smallest possible sizes. In “Snakes”, the infinite diminution of size and infinite increase in number is only suggested in the finished work.

Swedish pianist Fredrik Ullén used the “Snakes” print for the cover art of his 1998 album entitled “György Ligeti: Complete Piano Music, Volume 2”.

Clare Leighton

Clare Leighton “Cutting” 1931, Wood Engraving, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Clare Leighton’s “Cutting” is an image from her Canadian Lumber Camp series. In this wood-engraving, the strength of the working men is conveyed through the curves of the black silhouettes, with a minimal use of white line, seen against the snowy backdrop. The landscape and figures are successfully bound together.

A particularly striking feature of this series is Clare Leighton’s depiction of the magical light of snow in the forest. This is achieved through her use of the multiple tool, which enables the gouging of several lines with a single stroke, that she began using in 1930.