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VJP title
Utamaro print showing


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SAWADA Tetsurô (沢田哲郎)


Sawada Tetsurô (沢田哲郎 1935-1999) was born in Hokkaidô and lived in Tokyo. He graduated from the Musashino University of Fine Arts in 1958, majoring in Western painting. He had his first solo show in Sapporo in 1955. By 1960, he began painting abstract oils, and in 1973, he produced his first lithographs and then silkscreen prints, while continuing with oil painting. In 1966-67, Sawada traveled to North and South America, and in 1969 he studied in France and Spain. During the next decade, his works gained in popularity among collectors, and in 1980 he won a prize at the Norway International Print Biennale.

Sawada Tetsuo: "Glacier Zone," 1997
Silkscreen; paper: 675 x 467 mm (margins shown cropped here)

A more or less monothematic artist, Sawada had a seemingly endless fascination with vast skies and bands of layered clouds, which he depicted in subtle gradations of colors. He was perhaps inspired by the clear winter skies in Hokkaidô, as well as his international travel, which offered opportunities to observe the sky under myriad atmospheric conditions and doubtless added to his storehouse of images. Sawada printed his images with striking juxtapositions of matte and lustrous colors. His style was characterized by a clean precision that imparted a quiet atmosphere to nearly all his works. The near-perfection of his technique is formidable, and the surfaces of his works are fragile, prone to scuffing or scratching that can easily ruin the print.

The title of the print illustrated here is "Glacier Zone," numbered 24/100 and dated '97. It is a large-format print on paper measuring 675 x 467 mm (26-5/8" x 18-3/8”). The expanse of bright, gradated blue in a vertical composition is especially characteristic of Sawada's works, although he also used other colors for his skies and produced horizontal formats as well.

Sawada's popular, polished "skyscapes" are in many public and private collections around the world, including the British Museum, Cleveland Museum, Cincinnati Art Museum, and Honolulu Academy of Art. © 2020 by John Fiorillo


  • Tolman, Mary S. and Norman H.: People Who Make Japanese Prints—A Personal Glimpse. Sobunsha, Tokyo, May 1982, pp. 22 and 128-141.
  • Smith, Lawrence: Contemporary Japanese Prints — Symbols of a Society in Transition. London: British Museum, 1985, p. 39.
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