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HASHIMOTO Okiie (橋本興家)


Hashimoto Okiie (橋本興家 1899-1993) was born in Tottori Prefecture. He graduated from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, Ueno in 1924, where he studied art education and Western-style oil painting (yôga: 洋画). From 1924-55, he worked as a middle-school teacher, later accepting an appointment as an assistant principal of the Tokyo First Women's High School. During that period he thought of himself as a "Sunday printmaker." He also became interested in prints around 1932 and began printmaking in 1936 when he took a three-day short course taught by Hiratsuka Un'ichi (平塚運一), his only formal training in making woodcuts. Afterward, they became good friends and Hashimoto became a member of Hiratsuka's circle of artists, Yoyogi-ha (代々木派). He was also part of Onchi Kôshirô's First Thursday Society (Ichimokukai: 一木会), contributing a landscape design (Yaene on Hachijô Island) to that group's sixth and final portfolio, Ichimokushû (First Thursday Collection: 一木集), in 1950. After more than thirty years of teaching at the aforementioned middle school in Tokyo, Hashimoto retired in 1955 to devote all his time to printmaking.

Hashimoto Okiie: Shôkei, Katsura (Short path, Katsura: 小径 桂), 1965
Woodcut, paper size: 781 x 559 mm

Hashimoto first exhibited at the Japanese Print Association (Nihon Hanga Kyôkai) show in 1937, and joined that group in 1940. Hashimoto frequently depicted Japanese gardens and castles (including several albums featuring views of castles issued from the 1940s into the 1960s); he also produced floral and figure subjects. Many of his designs are characterized by multiple vantage points, and his partly abstracted sand gardens often contrast an atmosphere of contemplation with somewhat severe or repeated geometrical forms used to construct the compositions. Subtle modulations also contribute toward a sophisticated surface in his compositions. In other examples, the use of intense red, orange, yellow, and green colors animate the designs, vividly distinguishing such scenes from the more quiet aspects of his oeuvre.

The self-carved and self-printed design shown above, from 1965, is titled Shôkei, Katsura (Short path, Katsura: 小径 桂). As with many of his prints, the right margin has an inscription reading Hashimoto Okiie saku (Work of Hashimoto Okiie: 橋本興家作). This is a large format work (paper size: 781 x 559 mm) whose formidable dimensions amplify the intensity of the bright sunlight illuminating the path among the trees. One of the motifs explored by Hashimoto was the effect of dappled light on the perception of forms. Here, an intense yellow pigment energizes the composition, illuminating the ground with irregular patches of bright sunlight that has broken through the canopy of branches above. Even the shadows bleed with speckled yellow, the result of overprinting a not-entirely opaque green. Looking at this scene, one can feel the radiant heat of the sun.

Hashimoto turned frequently to the depiction of castles. He told Oliver Statler (see 1956 ref. below) that, "I like architectural detail and I have a special feeling for old stone walls. It's tragic how fast the castles are disappearing. I'd like to make a series of prints of some of the great ones at various times of the day so that people in the future will have some idea [of] what they looked like. They're important to Japan and important to me."

Hashimoto: Nagoya Castle (名古屋城), June 1944 from the deluxe book Nihon no shiro (Castles of Japan: 日本の城)

One example of Hashimoto's dedication to feudal-era castles (see image above) was his depiction of Nagoya Castle (名古屋城) from the June 1944 deluxe book (stitched-binding, fukuro-tôji, 袋綴じ) titled Nihon no shiro (Castles of Japan: 日本の城), for which he designed twelve double-page woodblock prints (289 x 380 mm) and three vignettes. Hashimoto cut the blocks, but the printing was done by Yokoi Yoshikazu. The author of the scholarly text was Kishida Hideto (岸田日出刀) and the publisher Katô Hanga Kenkyûjo (Katô Print Research Institute: 加藤版画研究所), run by Katô Junji (加藤潤二) of Tokyo (active 1930-53) who published prints after founding his firm in 1930. There were later printings of Hashimoto's book; at least later printing is known from 1950 (the example shown here appears to be from a later edition). Hashimoto had already portrayed Nagoya Castle in a 1937 single-sheet composition in larger format (467 x 391 mm). From the same point of view and a very similar composition, the earlier work was only one of three known castle views from that year, and possibly the earliest such scenes in all of Hashimoto's oeuvre.

Also fascinated by Japanese rock gardens, Hashimoto designed many views of the subject. The design shown below is a self-carved and self-printed medium-large work (paper size: 575 x 486 mm) titled simply Sekitei (rock garden: 石庭) from 1975 that he published in an ediiton of 150. Hashimoto's reliance on a carefully controlled geometry of parallel lines and faceted rocks imbues the composition with a stillness and contemplative mood common to many of his other gaarden scenes. The depth is ambiguous with no consistent single perspective. The slightly shifting vantage points compel the viewer to reorient repeatedly while navigating visually around the composition. The forms at the lower left might indeed be seen from face on, in contradiction to the aerial view of differing angles for the various forms in most of the garden.

Hashimoto Okiie: Sekitei (Rock garden: 石庭), 1975
Woodcut, paper size: 575 x 486 mm

Although Hashimoto enjoyed working in oils, he preferred printmaking. He told Oliver Statler (see 1956 ref. below) that, "I feel I can get more expression from the carving tool than I ever can from the brush. The brush goes along too easily. I like the resistence that the block gives me. And don't be misled, the whole process of making prints is hard work — it's hard but satisfying." He also mentioned that, "I like to sketch on the spot, and I use the line of traditional Japanese painting because I think it has something in common with the line of prints." In his printing, Hashimoto often used plywood faced with shina and, less frequently, other woods included sakura (cherry: 桜 or 櫻) and katsura (Judas tree, Cercidiphyllum japonicum: 桂). Stencils cut from stiff waterproof paper (or mimeographed) have also proved useful on occasion when applying oil pigment with a roller. Colorants included Japanese vegetable pigments (including ai-gami, or dayflower blue: 藍紙), gofun (shell powder or shell white, a calcium carbonate: 胡粉), tube water colors, and sumi (carbon black, a mixture of soot, water, and glue: 墨 or 墨). His papers included torinoko-gami (鳥の子紙).

Sidenote: The first sôsaku hanga (創作版画) or "creative print" was made by Yamamoto Kanae (山本鼎 1882-1946) from a single block carved on both sides. Known as Gyofu ("Fisherman": 漁夫), the seminal woodcut was published in Ishii Hakutei's (石井柏亭 1882-1958) art and literary magazine Myôjô (Morning Star: 明星) in 1904. It was reprinted in a memorial edition of 40 by Hashimoto Okiie in 1960 upon the request of Ishii Tsuruzô (1887-1983), Hakutei's younger brother, who had rediscovered Yamamoto's block, and by the modern print connoisseur and advocate Oliver Statler (1915-2002). © 1999-2020 by John Fiorillo

[For other prints by Hashimoto Okiie, see Gardens.]


  • Jenkins, Donald: Images of a Changing World: Japanese Prints of the Twentieth Century. Portland Art Museum, 1983, p. 102, no. 82.
  • Merritt, Helen: Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990, pp. 250-251.
  • Smith, Lawrence: Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989. British Museum, 1994, p. 46, no. 25.
  • Spangenberg, Kristin: Innovation and Tradition: Twentieth-Century Japanese Prints from the Howard and Caroline Porter Collection. Cincinnati Art Museum, 1990, pp. 17, 24, and 51.
  • Statler, Oliver: Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn. Rutland & Tokyo: Tuttle, 1956, pp. 133-136, and 200, nos. 79-80.
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