YOSHIDA Hiroshi (1876-1950)
Yoshida Hiroshi (吉田博) learned Western-style painting in the 1890s. By 1899 he had already visited the United States and Europe and was selling
watercolors to western buyers. In 1920-21 he designed eight prints for the publisher Watanabe, but the great Kantô earthquake of
1923 destroyed the blocks and prints in Watanabe's studio. Yoshida traveled again to the United States in 1923-24, and then resumed
printmaking in 1925 as an independent artist-publisher, supervising all aspects of production from the first sketches to the final prints.
Impressions executed under Yoshida's direction bear his jizuri stamp (two characters reading "self-printed," indicating that
Yoshida supervised and approved of the results). It might be argued that in exerting such control over the process, Yoshida combined the
artist's creative control as espoused by the shin hanga movement with traditional ukiyo-e methods. The first seventeen prints issued
from his own studio were all scenes of non-Japanese subjects, and he continued throughout his career to produce images of both Japanese and
foreign scenes. Yoshida's style was picturesque and widely popular. His choice of subjects could be somewhat nostalgic, even anachronistic
at times, but his standards were very high and the overall quality of his work was impressive. Yoshida blended the techniques he learned in
western-style oil painting with traditional printmaking methods by using extensive overprinting of colors, a gray keyblock line to help blend
adjacent colors while avoiding a rigidity of forms, and an unusually subtle but wide range of colors. The result was both decorative and
expressive. Rarely did his scenic but sophisticated prints degrade into mere tourist art in spite of the western subject matter or popular
The figure above is a design from the series Sakura hachidai ("Eight Scenes of Cherry Blossoms"), titled "Avenue of Cherry
Trees." It was issued in 1935 and shows a section of the Sankeien, a popular garden in Yokohama, on a path lined with cherry trees in full
bloom. Street vendors sell their wares as two women dressed in colorful kimono look over the merchandise and other small figures can be seen at
the end of the long path. It is a good example of Yoshida's interest in realistic detail. The cherry blossoms are printed in three shades of pale
pink, while the ground and trees are done in four or five shades of gray and tan. Overall the palette is subdued, with only a bright red used at
the stall on the left.
Yoshida first explored the effects of printing different colors for the same keyblock in 1921 to create alternate moods at three times of day
(morning, afternoon, and evening) for his design called "Sailing Boats." Two similar examples of this approach are shown in the
images below. The view on the left is titled Taji Maharu no niwa daichi ("Taj Mahal Gardens No. 1"), the view on the right Daini
Taji Maharu no niwa yoru ("Taj Mahal No. 2 Gardens at Night"). They were published in 1931 as part of a series of prints depicting
scenes from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Singapore issued in 1931-32. Six of these were views of the Taj Mahal. Yoshida experimented with
depicting the low definition of shadows at early evening by using a monochrome blue palette to flatten the effects of light. The day view includes
slight embossing (not visible in this illustration) on the facade of the Taj Mahal to accentuate the shadows produced by a bright sun.
©1999-2001 by John Fiorillo
For another view of the Taj Mahal, see Bartlett.
- Brown, Kendall and Goodall-Cristante, Hollis: Shin-Hanga: New Prints in Modern Japan. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1996, pp. 42-44 and plates 39-43.
- Ogura, Tadao (Ed.): The Complete Woodblock Prints of Yoshida Hiroshi. Tokyo: Abe Publishing Co., 1987, plates 154-155 and 198.
- Pachter, Irwin: Kawase Hasui and His Contemporaries: The Shin Hanga (New Print) Movement in Landscape Art. Syracuse: Everson Museum of Art, 1986, pp. 30-34, plates 106-127.
- Smith, Lawrence: Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989. London: British Museum Press, 1994, pp. 38 & 50 and plates 49-50.
- Stephens, Amy Reigle (Ed.): The New Wave: Twentieth Century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection. London & Leiden: Bamboo Publishing & Hotei Japanese Prints, 1993, pp. 117-121, plates 101-113.