spacer 12
VJP title
Utamaro print showing

 

spacer 16
 

YOSHIDA Hiroshi (吉田博)
1876-1950

 

Yoshida Hiroshi (吉田博) (吉田博 1876-1950) was the second son of a samurai named Ueda Tsukane. In 1891 he was adopted by Yoshida Kasaburô (1861-94), a junior high school art teacher where Hiroshi was enrolled in Fukuoka Prefecture. Showing great promise, he was sent to Kyoto to train with Kasaburô's former art teacher Tamura Sôryû (田村宗立 1846-1918) in 1893 (who was trained in the Nanga manner, but was better known for his oils paintings). During his study in Kyoto, Hiroshi met the watercolorist Miyake Katsumi (三宅克己 or 三宅克巳 1874-1954), who would have a lasting influence on the young artist. Following Miyake's advice, Hiroshi relocated to Tokyo in 1894, where he was accepted at the Fudôsha (不同社 meaning, roughly, "Diversity"), a private painting school run by the early yôga-style painter Koyama Shôtarô (小山 正太郎 1857–1916). Many important yôga-style painters trained there, and in that fertile environment, Hiroshi succeeded in enhancing his skills as a painter in watercolors.

yoshida hiroshi grand canyon
Yoshida Hiroshi: Grand Canyon (Gurando Kyanion: グランドキャニオン)
from the "United States" series (Beikoku 米国)
Large ôban nishiki-e, 1925, self-published by Yoshida Hiroshi
(with jizuri 自摺 seal top let margin)

In March 1898 he submitted an oil to the Tenth Anniversary Exhibition of the Meiji Bijutsukai (Meiji Fine Arts Society). Titled Kumo akimi aki ("Mountain mist in mid-autumn: 雲叡深秋, now in the Fukuoka Art Museum), it brought Yoshida his first public recognition as an artist. Yoshida also mastered Western-style oil painting in the 1890s. By 1900, his watercolor "High Mountains and Stream" was exhibited at the World Exposition in Paris where it won an award and made Yoshida famous in Japan. In 1899, the year between these two works, Yoshida visited the United States and Europe and began selling watercolors to western buyers.

In 1920-21 Yoshida designed eight woodcuts for the eminent shin hanga impresario Watanabe Shôzaburô (渡辺庄三郎, 1885-1962), but the great Kantô earthquake of 1923 destroyed Watanabe's studio, which stored carved woodblocks and prints by various artists, including Yoshida. He traveled again to the United States in 1923-1924. It was during this sojourn that Yoshida realized how popular Japanese prints were outside of Japan, and it inspired him to establish his own printmaking business. The six prints in the United States series (Honolulu Aquarium; El Capitan; Grand Canyon; Niagara Falls; Mt. Rainier; Lake Moraine) — the ninth through the fourteenth works in his oeuvre — were the first designs Yoshida made in his own Tokyo studio after he separated from Watanabe Shôsaburô, the great shin hanga impresario who had published and sold Yoshida's first eight designs. The blocks for Grand Canyon were carved by Maeda Yûjirô.

Yoshida's portrayal of the Grand Canyon (illustrated above) was based on a large (40.8 x 60.8 cm) watercolor he painted in 1924 during his third trip to the United States. It was during this sojourn that Yoshida realized just how popular Japanese prints were outside of Japan, and it inspired him to establish his own printmaking business. The six prints in the United States series (Honolulu Aquarium; El Capitan; Grand Canyon; Niagara Falls; Mt. Rainier; Lake Moraine) — the ninth through the fourteenth works in his total oeuvre — were the first designs Yoshida made in his own Tokyo studio after he separated from the publisher Watanabe Shôsaburô, the formidable shin hanga impresario who had issued and sold Yoshida's first eight designs. The blocks for Grand Canyon were carved by Maeda Yûjirô. (For more, see my text at Yoshida Grand Canyon.)

yoshida hiroshi grand canyon

Yoshida Hiroshi:
Hansen (Sailing boats: 帆船) from the series Seto naikai shû (Seto Inland Sea collection: 瀬戸内海集)
(Top left to bottom right) (1) Asa: (Morning: 朝); (2) Gozen (Forenoon: 午前);
(3) Gogo (Afternoon: 午後; (4) Kiri (Mist: 霧); (5) Yu (Evening: 夕); (6) Yoru (Night: 夜)
Double ôban nishiki-e, 1926, self-published by Yoshida Hiroshi
(with jizuri 自摺 seals in top left margins)

Yoshida first explored the effects of printing different colors with the same keyblock in 1921 when he attempted to create alternate moods or times of day (morning, afternoon, and evening; image size 450 x 330 mm) for a three-print series titled "Sailing Boats" (帆船). Five years later he produced his most famous set featuring different colorations with the series Seto Naikai shû (Inland Sea collection: 瀬戸内海集), which he printed in variant colors as six double-ôban designs (540 x 390 mm), as shown above. Once again, each image is titled Hansen (Sailing boats: 帆船) and subtitled with different times of day or night.

The first seventeen prints issued from Yoshida's studio were all scenes of non-Japanese subjects, and he continued throughout his career to produce images of both foreign and Japanese 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 Japanese views.

yoshida hiroshi grand canyon

Yoshida Hiroshi:
Kameidô-bashi (Kameido Bridge: 亀井戸橋) from the series Tokyo jûnidai (Twelve scenes of Tokyo: 東京拾二題)
 Ôban nishiki-e, 1927, self-published by Yoshida Hiroshi
(with jizuri 自摺 seal in top left margin)

In the year 1927, Yoshida produced a series of ôban prints titled Tokyo jûnidai (Twelve scenes of Tokyo: 東京拾二題), reminiscent of the theme known as meisho (famous places or celebrated scenes: 名所) that had been so popular during the Edo period. One example from Yoshida's set is shown above, the Kameidô-bashi (Kameidô Bridge: 亀井戸橋). The Kameidô Tenjin-sha (Kameidô Tenjin Shrine: 亀戸天神社) on the eastern fringe of Tokyo was first dedicated in 1646 to honor the deified Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真, 845-903), patron of scholarship and calligraphy. However, a Tenjin image carved from a sacred plum tree was added in 1661 by a visiting priest of the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine (太宰府天満宮) in Fukuoka, and this date is accepted as the starting point for the current Kameido Tenjin Shrine. The taiko-bashi (drum bridge: 太鼓橋) on the shrine grounds was a popular tourist destination, as were the many plum trees and, in springtime, the purple fuji (wisteria: 藤) that hangs from trellises over the pond, as is clearly depicted at the top of Yoshida's woodcut. The Shinto shrine building and wooden arched bridge were destroyed during the Allied fire bombing of March 1945; today, a steel and concrete bridge stands in its place (all of the shrine grounds were fully restored by 1979).

Comment about Yoshida's lifetime prints:
Impressions executed under Yoshida's direction bear his jizuri stamp (自摺 two characters reading "self-printed," indicating that Yoshida supervised and approved of the results). The jizuri seals appearing on impressions of Yoshida's prints are universally accepted as imprimaturs of lifetime authenticity and high quality. However, this "stamp of approval" is rarely indicative of Yoshida's actually printing the work, even though he was accomplished at both block carving and printing, and considered having these skills a prerequisite for effectively supervising his artisans and guiding them toward achieving the results he demanded. In regard to carving the blocks, Yoshida cut only fifteen of his designs, otherwise delegating the remainder to two artisans — Yamagishi Kazue for some early prints, and Maeda Yûjirô for the remaining works. As for his printers, Yoshida employed various professionals over the years. Thus, the presence of a jizuri-e seal should not be taken as evidence that Yoshida actually printed the impression himself; rather, it signaled his sanctioning the impression as superior in rendering keyblock line, color, and multiblock registration, and thereby worthy of his signature. Moreover, if an impression includes an English-style signature ("Hiroshi Yoshida"), it should be in pencil, not stamped in graphite facsimile as are the numerous posthumous printings. ©1999-2021 by John Fiorillo

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Allen, Laura, et al.: A Japanese Legacy: Four Generations of Yoshida Family Artists. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2002.
  • 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.
  • Catalogue of Collections [Modern Prints]: The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (Tokyo kokuritsu kindai bijutsukan shozô-hin mokuroku, 東京国立近代美術館所蔵品目録). 1993, p. 263, nos. 2531-2536.
  • 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.
spacer 16
         
     
Viewing Japanese Prints
Designed & Written by John Fiorillo
Site launched 1999
All texts and pictures are copyright © (All Rights Reserved)
and may not be reproduced without permission.