28.5 x 38.8 Azechi Umetarô (畦地梅太郎) -- OsakaPrints.com -- Japanese Ukiyo-e Woodblock and Modern Prints and Paintings
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Azechi Umetarô (畦地梅太郎)

Description:
Untitled, but known as Natsu no Fujisan (Mt. Fuji in summer: 夏の富士山)
Signature:
No signature
Seals:
Artist's red seal at lower right of image
Publisher:
Self-carved,, self-printed, self-published
Date:
1951
Format:
(H x W)
Sôsaku hanga ("creative print) ôban woodcut
26.0 x 35.0 cm
Impression:
Excellent
Condition:
Excellent color and overall condition, unbacked; dog-eared UL corner in margin
Price (USD/¥):
$1,875 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry: AZH05

Comments:
Background

Azechi Umetarô (畦地梅太郎 1902-99) was born in Ehime prefecture in Shikoku. He first studied painting by correspondence course and began making prints by scratching out designs on lead plates, inking them, and using a teacup as a "baren" (馬楝) or print-rubbing tool. Azechi was later befriended by the artist Hiratsuka Un'ichi (平塚運一 1895-1997), who supported his entrance into art exhibitions, such as those held by the Nihon Sôsaku Hanga Kyôkai (Japan Creative Print Association: 日本創作版画協会) in 1924 (he joined the association in 1932), where Azechi eventually met other artists, such as Maekawa Senpan (前川千帆 1888-1960). However, Kôshirô Onchi (恩地孝四郎 1891-1955) was his greatest influence. Onchi encouraged Azechi to rely upon his own experience in the pursuit of art and life as an artist. Azechi quit his job at the printing office and became a freelance artist. His prints from the 1920s-1930s often depicted landscapes, but he engaged with other subjects. After World War II, he developed his distinctive style using simplified forms and flat areas of bold colors, usually portraying mountains and mountain men, subjects for which he is best known. He also gained some renown in Japan as an essayist on the subject. An accomplished mountaineer, Azechi led a vigorous outdoor lifestyle well into his nineties.

For more about this artist, see Azechi Umetarô Biography.

Design

Azechi once said that, "As for my work, the greatest influence was Onchi, and my simplified style today owes most to him." Indeed, the master's influence is readily apparent in Azechi's soft-edge printing of the forms, done entirely from color blocks, without keyblock outlines, and achieved through the use of curved chisels. In modern Japanese prints, the curved-chisel technique for carving out forms in woodcuts dates back to the first sôsaku hanga print by Yamamoto Kanae (山本鼎 1882-1946), titled Gyofu (Fisherman: 漁夫), which appeared on the contents page of the magazine Myôjo (Morning star: 明星) in 1904. Onchi later adapted the method for some of his works, calling it asa-bori (浅彫り), a shallow block-cutting technique used for printing soft-edge forms in works such as portraits where the building up of shapes to model faces was required.

Our impression is especially "soft" and expressive. Other printings of the design can be more dramatic with a slope of the mountain rendered rather dark, turbulent clouds included along the top, and bright high-contrast sunshine falling upon the top edges of the green hills. Azechi's use of various shades of blue and turquoise is particularly unusual for this design, and it seems most suitable for a calm summer's day.

References: Azechi's work has been discussed and illustrated in many Western publications, among them:

  1. Merritt, Helen: Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Early Years, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1990, pp. 146, 150, 204, 234-235, 254, 281-282, 284.
  2. Michener, James: The Modern Japanese Print. An Appreciation. Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1962, pp. 39-42.
  3. Smith, Lawrence: The Japanese Print Since 1900: Old Dreams and New Visions. London: British Museum, 1983, pp. 104, 118; no. 91a.
  4. Statler, Oliver: Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn. Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1956, pp. 136-141, 199-200; nos. 74-81, 82.
  5. Uhlenbeck, Chris, Reigle Newland, Amy, de Vries, Maureen: Waves of Renewal. Modern Japanese prints from the Nihon no Hanga collection, Amsterdam. Leiden: Hotei Publishing, 2016, pp. 285-288.

Azechi Umetarô also produced an informative book on the making of prints:

  • Umetarô Azechi, Japanese Woodblock Prints: Their Techniques and Appreciation. Tokyo and Rutland, VT: Toto Shuppan Co., 1963.