Takahashi Hiromitsu (高橋宏光) was born in 1959 in Tokyo and graduated from Nihon University, Tokyo in 1982. He prefers using his given name in signing his art, as the surname "Takahashi" is a very common in Japan. Hiromitsu's parents, the print artist Takahashi Isao and the textile-dyeing artist Soeda Toshiko, were assistants to Mori Yoshitoshi and the katazome (stencil dyeing: 型染め) designer Serizawa Keisuke (芹沢銈介 1895–1984). Given this experience, they introduced their son to the technique of stencil printmaking (kappazuri: 合羽摺). Given his parent's work history, Hiromitsu's works in that medium are understandably reminiscent of Mori's, but they maintain a style that is easily recognizable as his own. For one thing, kabuki is his singular theme, whereas Mori roamed more widely in his subject matter. As a result, a great number of Hiromitsu's designs rely on the stop-action mie ("display" or dramatic pose: 見得) that characterizes many celebrated climactic moments in kabuki.
For more about this artist, see Takahashi Hiromitsu Biography.
The subject is "Yanone" (Arrowhead: 矢の根) from the array of wildly popular puppet and kabuki dramas recounting the revenge of the Soga brothers (Soga monogatari: Tales of the Soga, 曾我物語絵) against their father's murderer Suketsune. In the scene depicted here, Soga Gorô falls asleep while polishing and sharpening a huge arrowhead for the brothers' revenge against their father's murderer, Kudô Suketsune, dreaming that his brother Soga Jûrô is in trouble. He awakens, grabs the horse of a passing farmer, and using a huge radish as a whip, rides off to rescue his brother at Kudô's mansion. The Ichikawa acting family made the drama one of its Kabuki jûhachiban (Eighteen favorite plays: 歌舞伎十八番).
The intensity of Soga Gorô's mie is captured efficiently but brilliantly by Hiromitsu, who has used the kappazuri technique to great effective. The aragoto ("rough-stuff": 荒事) style kumadori (lit., "taking the shadows": 隈取) face makeup is there. The sweeping curves of the flamboyant costume and the (unusually) bent arrow shaft bestow a visual dynamism to the portrayal. As Kominz states (see ref. below, p. 399), "Ya no Ne is above all a visual experience. The bold costumes and make-up, the actor's grandiose gestures and the ease with which he handles his long arrows and carries the huge whetstone, all contribute to creating the aragoto character."
Hiromitsu has said that he admires the early masters of ukiyo-e and their bold monochrome prints. Their influence can be seen in the present design. Hiromitsu's first version of the Soga theme is on offer here in a large-format, exceedingly small edition of only 15 impressions. These early Hiromitsu designs are rare and difficult to acquire. Hiromitsu has said that he admires the early master of ukiyo-e and their bold monochrome prints. Their influence can be seen in the present design.
- Graybill, Maribeth (ed.): The Artist's Touch, The Craftsman's Hand; Three Centuries of Japanese Prints from the Portland Art Museum. Oregon: Portland Art Museum, 2011. p. 326, no. 177.
- Kominz, Laurence: "Ya no ne: The Genesis of a Kabuki Aragoto Classic," in: Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 38, no. 4 (Winter 1983), 387-407.
- Martineau, Lucas: Takahashi Hiromitsu: DyEing Art of Kappazuri. Tolman Collection, 2020.