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VJP title
Utamaro print showing


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MAKI Haku (1924-2000)


maki kanji Maki Haku (巻白) is the artistic name of Maejima Tadaaki who was born in Asomachi in Ibaragi Prefecture. He had no formal art training, although after the Second World War he did involve himself in meetings guided by the visionary modernist Onchi Kôshirô at the Ichimoku-kai ("First Thursday Society"), where he learned much from the master. Although his earliest work was strongly influenced by Onchi, Maki gradually developed his own style, particularly when he turned to calligraphic subjects and began embossing his designs.

Maki Maki used various printing techniques and media, but he is best known for his combined woodcut, stencil, lamination, and cement-relief block prints in which the cement-paste (cement mixed with water and chemical bond) was carved and scored while still wet. The blocks were then rubbed and pressed onto paper with as much hand pressure as possible to produce a raised relief or three-dimensional effect. He used both water-based and oil-based pigments. His style was sometimes abstract-calligraphic, sometimes representational. When he used calligraphic elements he attempted to use traditional ideographs while introducing modernist aspects to their shapes, sometimes abandoning their traditional forms, adding or subtracting elements, and rearranging them for aesthetic or expressive effect.

Maki completed an interesting project in 1969 when he designed 21 block prints to accompany ancient poetic songs (kayô) composed from the 5th to 9th century, compiled in a handwritten scroll called the Kinkafu ("Music for Wagon Wheels"). The title refers to an early Japanese harp, a precursor to the modern koto. The Kinkafu scroll was discovered only in 1924, although 5 of the same poems were known in the Kojiki (712 A.D.). Maki's designs offered a highly successful complement to the content and spirit of the poems.

kanji_grandfather Maki's later works included a broad range of variations on the use of calligraphic shapes. The print illustrated here is entitled "79-14 (Grandfather)" from the edition of 205. The first two digits in the title indicate the year, 1979. The image size is 232 x 202 mm. The print is signed "Haku Maki" in English and sealed Haku Maki. The embossed ideograph is a stylization or reshaping of the word for "grandfather" (see the ideograph for ya on the immediate left). There is surely an anthropomorphic quality to much of Maki’s calligraphy, and one might interpret the present example as intentionally playful, possibly with a suggestion of grandchildren and their exuberant energy, which would be so vital to a grandfather's happiness. The transformation of the ideograph for "grandfather" into the lively, youthful calligraphic shapes appears to bridge symbolically the different generations and bring them "full circle" (as is perhaps implied by the small circle in the center of the composition). © 2001 by John Fiorillo


  • Blakemore, F.: Who's Who in Modern Japanese Prints. New York: Weatherhill, 1975, pp. 99-100.
  • Brannen, N. and Elliott, W: Festive Wine: Ancient Japanese Poems from the Kinkafu. (Illustrated with 21 block prints by Haku Maki). New York: Weatherhill, 1969.
  • Michener, J.: The Modern Japanese Print. An Appreciation. Rutland: Tuttle, 1968, pp. 52-54.
  • Petit, G. and Arboleda, A.: Evolving Techniques in Japanese Woodblock Prints. Kodansha, 1977, pp. 63-69 and figs. 40-58.
  • Smith, L.: Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989. London: British Museum Press, 1994, pp. 30, 61-62, and nos. 107-108.
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