Ishiwata Kôitsu (1897-1987)
Ishiwata Kôitsu (石渡江逸), whose given name was Shôichirô, was a Nihonga (Japanese-style) painter who also worked in design and fabric
dyeing, achieving a reputation in the 1920s as a fabric designer in Yokohama. He apparently developed an interest in printmaking through
his study with Kawase Hasui. By the 1930s he had chosen his art name and concentrated on designing woodblock
prints in the shin hanga style, issuing many with the publisher Shôzaburô Watanabe.
Among these were views of small towns and street scenes, which often emphasized the every-day quality of contemporary life and the details
of ordinariness, distinguishing some of his work from that of his mentor Hasui's often more romanticized and grander vision of the Japanese
landscape and cityscape. Late in his career Kôitsu combined woodblock with stencil printing, sometimes published by Katô Junji.
The illustration on the right is signed Kôitsu above the artist's diamond-shaped seal. In the lower left margin the print is titled
Namamugi no seki ("Evening at Namamugi"), and dated Shôwa rokunen gogetsu saku ("Made in the fifth month of
Shôwa 6"), corresponding to May 1931. The inscription in the lower right margin is the publisher's copyright, which reads
Hanmoto Watanabe hanga ten ("Print Shop of the Publisher Watanabe").
Light from the setting sun casts shadows upon the canal below a pale orange horizon while the moon rises in a dark blue sky. The quiet scene
is filled with precisely rendered details of small boats, watery reflections, wood structures, tilted poles, broken fences tied with rope,
stone walls, loose bricks, and scattered small rocks. A near-perfect natural light illuminates an imperfect man-made scene, beautifully
depicted in the medium of the woodblock print.
[Note: There was another shin hanga artist, working in a related style, named Tsuchiya Kôitsu, 1870-1949, whose art name (Kôitsu)
was pronounced the same but written differently.] © 2001 by John Fiorillo
- 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, p. 178, plates 224-225.
- Smith, L., The Japanese Print Since 1900: Old Dreams and New Vision. British Museum, London, pp. 96-97, plates 75-76.