Oda Kazuma (織田一麿 1882-1956) was born in Tokyo into a family with shogunal roots. He studied Western-style painting with Kawamura Kiyo-o (1852-1934). Starting around 1898, he learned lithography from his elder brother Oda Tôu (a painter and lithography printer in Osaka) as well as with Kaneko Masajirô (active 1884-early 1900s). In 1903 Oda worked as a designer at the Koshiba lithography studio in Tokyo. Around that time, or shortly before, he appears to have met the Prague-born painter and printmaker Emil Orlik (1870-1932), whose lithographic prints were an inspiration. A prolific artist, the vast majority of Oda's oeuvre was in the medium of self-printed lithography, but he did provide designs for six shin-hanga-style ("new prints" or neo-ukiyo-e: 新版画) woodblock prints issued by the publisher Watanabe Shôzaburô in 1924, whose studio artisans originally made 100 impressions of each work (and 300 for the Matsue Ohashi design). Oda's self-published sôsaku hanga (creative prints: 創作版画), however, were almost always printed in smaller editions (often 20 each, sometimes 50).
Oda was very active in the Japanese print world. He also participated in several art societies, and in 1918 he was a founding member of the Japan Creative-Print Association (Nihon Sôsaku-Hanga Kyôkai: 日本創作版画協会) when he was its only lithographer. He also joined the Western-Style Print Society (Yôfû Hangakai: 洋風版画会) in 1929-30 and the Japan Print Association (Nihon Hanga Kyôkai: 日本洋画協会) in 1931. Having been a ukiyo-e enthusiast for many years, Oda published two books on the subject — "Eighteen studies of ukiyo-e" (Ukiyo-e jûhachi kô: 浮世繪十八考) in 1926 and "Ukiyo-e and the art of illustration" (Ukiyo-e to sashi-e geijutsu: 浮世繪と插繪藝術) in 1931. Oda was the only lithographer included in the ground-breaking Toledo Museum of Art print exhibition of 1930. Years later, in 1953, he opened his own private printing company, the Oda Lithography Studio (Oda Sekihanjutsu Kenkyûjo): 織田石版術研究所).
Much earlier, however, in regard to his own work, Oda began contributing lithographs to the coterie magazine Hôsun ("Square Inch": 方寸) in 1908. An example from two years later appeared in the magazine's small picture calendar (gareki: 畫暦) produced in December 1909 for the Year of the Dog (1910, Meiji 43); see below. This view of a young beauty holding her pet dog while admiring a garden was one of two designs Oda submitted for this project. The artists involved in the calendar were (in order of months): Jan., Kosugi Misei (小杉未醒 1881-1964); Feb., Sakamoto Hanjirô (坂本繁二郎 1882-1969); Mar., Yamamoto Kanae; April, Kurata Hakuyô (倉田白羊 1881-1938); May, Ishii Hakutei; June, Oda Kazuma; July, Hirafuku Hyakusui (平福百穂 1877-1933); Aug., Morita Tsunetomo (森田恒友 1881-1933); Sept., Kurata Hakuyô (倉田白羊 1881-1938); Oct., Sakamoto Hanjirô (坂本繁二郎 1882-1969); Nov., Oda Kazuma; and Dec., Ishii Hakutei.
In the 1910s Oda produced lithographic sets depicting scenes from two of Japan's great cities, titled "Collection of prints of scenes in Tokyo" (Tokyo fûkei hangashû, 東京風景版画集 1916-17) and "Collection of prints of scenes in Osaka" (Osaka fûkei hangashû, 大阪風景版画集 1917-19), each with six designs. An example from Tokyo fûkei hangashû is shown at the top of this page — a view of Ueno-Hirokoji (上野廣小路), Tokyo in 1916. We see here a scene of transition and modernization, with a tall edifice in the midst of construction, a great boulevard lined with other tall buildings, streetcars taking on passengers or moving along the tracks, motorcars, rickshaws, and pedestrians. The aerial perspective, in this instance from a building or vantage point on a foreground hill high above the street, is reminiscent of late nineteenth-century paintings and photographs of Paris (certain works by the Impressionist Camille Pissaro come to mind). There is, as well, a curious use of a single color — a dark yellow for the foreground trees; otherwise, the lithograph is monochromatic.
As for the Osaka views, the lithograph shown above is from Osaka fûkei hangashû. Titled Kyômachi-Horikawa (京町堀川), it depicts the Hori Canal, a waterway for the transportation of goods and commodities. Warehouses and workers can be seen on the left and restaurants on the right where a young woman dressed in kimono leans on a railing as she watches the activity along the waterfront. Drawn in Western style employing single-vanishing-point perspective, the pictorial space is animated by energetic swirling lines in the river and a curving canopy of parallel strokes in the sky. Typical of many monochrome lithographs by Oda, the shadows are very dark with densely applied ink.
Oda's shin-hanga-style collaboration with the publisher Watanabe Shôzaburô in 1924 resulted in a series of six designs carved and printed in the Watanabe studio mode. The set is titled "Scenes of San'in" (San'in fûkei: 山陰風景) featuring views from the San'in region in southwest Japan. Often reproduced in the literature is the "Great Bridge at Matsue (Matsue Ohashi: 松江大橋) which has become one of the sought-after prints (not shown here). Another example is the "Distant view of Hôki Daisen" (Hôki Daisen enbô: 伯耆大山遠望), which is shown below. Mount Daisen is the highest peak in the Chûgoku region (old Hôki province) attaining a height of 1,729 meters. It is also nicknamed "Hôki Fuji." Oda's depiction of the mountain below a turbulent sky and slanting rain isolated to a small stretch of the landscape (center left) is one of his more dynamic compositions. The contrast between the gray clouds and the sunlit slopes of the mountain is especially expressive.
It is instructive to compare the Watanabe-produced view of Hôki Daisen with Oda's own self-drawn, self-printed lithograph from a little more than a decade later. Two differences are most striking. First, the bright colors of the Watanabe interpretation are gone in favor of a muted-chromatic mode of rendering the scene. Second, the sheer scale of the later version is most impressive, measuring more than twice the size (398 x 530 mm) of the earlier print. The isolated shower remains toward the left of center, although the storm clouds do not have the menacing darkness found in the Watanabe version. Moreover, the steep hill at the far left in the Watanabe impression is gone, which enhances the focus primarily on the mountain.
Oda produced two series of prints portraying life in the Ginza in 1928-1929. From series I, the color lithograph "Senbiki shop in Ginza" (Ginza Senbikiya: 銀座千疋屋) is shown below, with the original folder for the print illustrated on the right. The Senbiki fruit shop traces its roots back to 1834 when its founder, a samurai named Benzo Ohshima, set up a discount fruit stall in Fukiya chô, Nihonbashi, Edo (Tokyo). After several relocations and the addition of imported fruits, the Senbikiya became Japan's premier specialty fruit shop.
In Oda's print, curious onlookers dressed in winter clothing and out for a evening stroll peer into the windows of what was then a decidedly modern fruit shop. It is interesting that Oda chose to apply warm colors across the central band of the composition; otherwise, cool grays and greens predominate. The Senbikiya was one of the many enticements luring shoppers into the Ginza district following the rapid rebuilding of Tokyo, in this case five years after the Great Kantô Earthquake of 1923. Today, the Senbikiya, Japan's high-end fruit market, still operates its flagship store in the Nihonbashi. Known impressions of this lithograph have either edition numbers of 20 or no numbers at all inscribed in pencil by the artist.
Another intriguing exception to Oda's relative lack of human-figure prints was the rare set of nudes titled "Five forms of women" (Onna go sugata: 女五姿) self-published in March 1927 (not shown here). These were done in woodblock, with hand-coloring on four of the five designs in the manner of tan-e ("red-lead prints": 丹絵). This technique looked back to a style of ukiyo-e spanning the years 1685 to 1720. Oda called the prints to which he added red and green strokes (by hand) tanroku-e (red-and-green pictures: 丹緑絵).
A charming figurative design by Oda is his lithograph of a standing nude first produced in 1922. The design also appeared in the coterie art magazine (dôjin zasshi: 同人雑誌) "HANGA" in its fourth issue from December of 1924. That later version was, however, reproduced in a reduced format of approximately 255 x 190 mm. The impression shown below is from the original self-published edition in larger format (456 x 275 mm). Oda relied on short- and medium-length lines of variable thicknesses and densities, and then surrounded the body with an exhuberant cascade of parallel curving lines. The lithograph is sealed "Kazuma" (かずま) in the lower right corner.
Impressions of Oda's prints are in many private collections and public institutions, with a large number in the United States after the artist donated many lithographs to American museums. Among the collections worldwide are the Art Institute of Chicago; British Museum, London; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Cincinnati Art Museum; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA; Honolulu Art Museum, Hawai'i; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Art; National Museum of Asian Art, Smithsonian; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; and Toledo Museum of Art, OH. © 2020 by John Fiorillo