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Utamaro print showing


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TAKAHASHI Hiromitsu (高橋宏光)


Takahashi Hiromitsu (高橋宏光) was born in 1959 in Tokyo and graduated from Nihon University, Tokyo in 1982. He prefers using his given name in signing his art, as the surname "Takahashi" is a very common in Japan. Hiromitsu's parents, the print artist Takahashi Isao and the textile-dyeing artist Soeda Toshiko, were assistants to Mori Yoshitoshi and the katazome (stencil dyeing: 型染め) designer Serizawa Keisuke (芹沢銈介 1895–1984). Given this experience, they introduced their son to the technique of stencil printmaking (kappazuri: 合羽摺). His works in that medium are understandably reminiscent of Mori's, but they maintain a style that is easily recognizable as his own. For one thing, kabuki is his singular theme, whereas Mori roamed more widely in his subject matter. As a result, a great number of Hiromitsu's designs rely on the stop-action mie ("display" or dramatic pose: 見得) that characterizes many celebrated climactic moments in kabuki. Given that Mori is now gone and Hiromitsu is no longer young, some observers worry that he might be the last true modern kappazuri artist.

Takahashi Hiromitsu: Yanone (Arrowhead: 矢の根), c. 1987
Kappazuri-e (stencil print), edition 9/15; 760 x 671mm

Takahashi Hiromitsu yanone IISome of Hiromitsu's prints were produced in large format and very small editions (as few as 5 numbered impressions). The current design was made in only 15 impressions. The subject is "Yanone" (Arrowhead: 矢の根) from the array of wildly popular puppet and kabuki dramas recounting the revenge of the Soga brothers (Soga monogatari: Tales of the Soga, 曾我物語絵). In the scene depicted here, Soga Gorô falls asleep while polishing a huge arrowhead, dreaming that his brother Soga Jûrô is in trouble. He awakens, grabs the horse of a passing farmer, and using a huge radish as a whip, rides off to the rescue. The Ichikawa acting family made the drama one of its Kabuki jûhachiban (Eighteen favorite plays: 歌舞伎十八番). Hiromitsu's use of a dark gray background and a intensely rendered black and white figure results in a dramatic portrayal of the Arrowhead scene. In 1987 Hiromitsu also designed a reworked large-format version of this subject in bright primary and secondary colors, edition of 20, titled "Yanone II" (see image at right).

Hiromitsu has exhibited in numerous solo and group shows around the world. His works can be found in many public institutions, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia; Cincinnati Art Museum; Honolulu Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Arts and Crafts, Hamburg; Library of Congress; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts; Portland Art Museum; and Singapore National Museum; and Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, Haifa, Israel. © 2020 by John Fiorillo


  • Graybill, Maribeth (ed.): The Artist's Touch, The Craftsman's Hand; Three Centuries of Japanese Prints from the Portland Art Museum. Oregon: Portland Art Museum, 2011. p. 326, no. 177.
  • Kominz, Laurence: "Ya no ne: The Genesis of a Kabuki Aragoto Classic," in: Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 38, no. 4 (Winter 1983), 387-407.
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