Travel in time through 200 years of Japanese history and culture. This week’s Japanese woodblock prints auction presents a curated collection of 50 prints, which explore how printmakers of the past impacted the development of modern art. Prints in this catalog range from Nishijima Katsuyuki’s Boat on Shore, a signed and numbered first edition from 1990, to the iconic Great Wave off Kanagawa, created by Katsuhika Hokusai in the 1820s.
The Great Wave print was purchased at the National Museum of Tokyo about 25 years ago. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was a ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period. He is best known as author of the woodblock print series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which includes the internationally recognized The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
Katsuyuki Nishijima (born 1945) is known for his woodblock prints that maintain the tradition and spirit of the ukiyo-e printmakers, while adding his own touch of modern simplicity. His prints show a romantic image of Japan.
The term ukiyo-e translates to “pictures of the floating world” and refers to a genre of Japanese art with a wide span of imagery. This movement was critical in forming the Western perception of Japanese art.
Another first edition in the auction is Silhouette of a Woman with Umbrella by Kamatsu Shiro (1898-1991), a Japanese artist who found success early in his career. Shozaburo Watanabe first saw his work in 1919 and published more than 50 of his prints by the late 1940s. Shiro was a part of the shin-hanga movement, which was created from the late Meiji era until World War II, showing a mixture of traditional Japanese and modern western elements.
Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) is considered the last great master of the ukiyo-e movement. His Lingering Snow at Asukayama is a Showa era (1926-1898) print published by Adachi from re-carved woodblocks. His approach was more poetic and ambient than the typical ukiyo-e style, and his innovative compositions were a great influence to Western painters.
Koitsu Tsuchiya (1879-1949) specialized in landscape images. His 1934 print titled Snow at the Ukimido, Katada is from an edition published in 1946-57 by Watanabe with the publisher’s seal.
Another highlight of the collection is an atmospheric image of a Tokyo landmark, Rain at Nihonbashi Bridge, by Noel Nouet. Created in 1936, this print is a later edition from the original block published by Doi on Doi watermarked paper.