Yoshida Family Legacy

Yoshida Family Legacy

The Yoshida Family is the preeminent family of Japanese artists producing three generations of woodblock artists who have helped shape the artistic legacy of Japan. In honor of their legacy, the Art Institute of Chicago hosted an exhibition featuring a selection of their works in Fall 2018

Haku Maki Themes

Haku Maki Themes

The Yoshida Family is the preeminent family of Japanese artists producing three generations of woodblock artists who have helped shape the artistic legacy of Japan. In honor of their legacy, the Art Institute of Chicago hosted an exhibition featuring a selection of their works in Fall 2018


Haku Maki: Early Abstarction

In my opinion some of Haku Maki's most powerful, and best work, came in the 1950's and 1960's before he experienced some of his larger scale commercial appeal which stemmed from the publication of Festive Wine: Ancient Japanese Poems From The Kinkafu. These early works are truly abstarct masterpeices with strong lines and powerful intention.

Although Haku Maki has always maintained a connection to calligraphy as part of the essence of his work, in the 1970's he began focusing much more on using Kanji characters in an abstract form, as well as traditional Japanese cultural items such as pottery and persimmons. This shift led to a move away from some of his more abstract compositions, to more identifiable characters.

View some of Haku Maki's early works here.

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Japanese prints masterpieces remain an accessible and rewarding medium for beginner and seasoned collectors alike. However, like other works on paper, prints are susceptible to damage from a range of factors. Proper care and conservation of your collection will ensure your ability to enjoy the works  for years to come! Koller Asian Art’s general guidelines are meant to provide you with a foundation to maintain best practices while caring for your collection. Remember, always seek out a professional conservator or restorer specializing in Japanese prints if your notice changes or damage to your artwork.

“When you look at [a] print by Yoshitoshi… for a moment that era: that era which you couldn’t tell if it was Edo or Meiji, an era in which night and day seemed to have merged and become one...doesn’t it appear before your eyes so vivid in an instant?”- Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, “The Good Man of the Enlightenment,”1919 (trans. Chelsea Foxwell)

In 1951, printmakers Kiyoshi Saitō 斉藤清 (1907–1997) and Tetsurō Komai 駒井哲郎(1920-1976) were awarded top prizes at the Sao Paolo Biennale, gaining instant recognition for Japanese prints in the increasingly global art world. Their success, unmatched by painters and sculptors at the same biennale, represented a flourishing of Japanese printmaking from the 1950s to the 1970s. The resurgence of creative printmaking in postwar Japan was characterized by innovative, abstract styles and themes that engaged with the rapid transformations of the era. Promoted by artists around the world as the common language of modern art, abstraction was thought to espouse international humanism, individualism, and liberalism following the traumatic experiences under the totalitarian regimes of World War II. This trend toward self-expression and barrier-breaking in the arts ushered in an unprecedented age of experimentation reinforced by transnational networks of avant-garde artists in Japan, Europe and America.

“Art is not something that can be grasped by the mind, it is understood by the heart. If one goes back to its origin, painting expresses the heart in color and form, and it must not be limited to the world of reflected forms captured by sight.” - Kōshirō Onchi on the process and philosophy of the sōsaku-hanga (“creative print”) movement.

Japanese culture including fine art, food, fashion, and customs has been adopted and popularized by the Western world now for over a century. Today, Japanese culture influences our daily lives as a result of globalization and its rapid integration in the West over time. A rise in the collection of Japanese art, specifically ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”) and sōsaku-hanga (“creative”) prints, mirrors the growing interest in traditional Japanese art as the inspiration that laid the groundwork for Japonisme, which shaped the West’s contemporary society. 

Hiroshi Yoshida (吉田 博, Japan, 1876-1950) was a prolific Japanese printmaker who broke through the cultural barriers that separated the Eastern and Western worlds. He became one of the first established Asian artists to show extensively in the West and contribute to the artistic milieu of the 20th century. Hiroshi trained as a shin-hanga (“new print”) artist during his early years, learning Western-style techniques of rendering light, color, and atmospheric depth. He also abided by depicting traditional Japanese themes of landscapes (fukei-ga), famous places (meishō), beautiful women (bijin-ga), kabuki actors (yakusha-e), and birds-and-flowers (kachō-e). However, Hiroshi never imitated Occidental art or methods of creating it. Instead, the artist innovated his own unmatched creative and progressive direction that his remarkable and coveted prints showcase today. 

“Without [art], I wouldn’t feel quite alive, or I wouldn’t feel like I should be living without doing some work. You could say it’s a sense of responsibility. It’s the proof that I am alive.” Toko Shinoda, 2017

“Claude Monet is the artist who has made the most inventive and original contribution to landscape painting… Among our landscape painters [he] was the first to have the boldness to go as far as the Japanese in the use of colour,” Théodore Duret, Japanese print collector and close friend of Monet, wrote in 1880.

"All my work is based to some extent on Japanese art." - Vincent van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother Theo in 1888 while living in Arles, France.

Nicholas Doughty is our first featured artist highlighting the impact of Japanese art on modern emerging artists. Nicholas is an artist out of Portland, Oregon working primarily in the method of pyrography. Stylistically he is heavily influenced by the traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e and Shin-Hanga movements which comes across clearly in the approach to his artwork.

Although Nicholas doesn't produce woodblock prints, the artwork is tremendously impactful in its current form as one of a kind ink, pencil and pyrography works on wood panels.

There is something highly engaging, personal, relatable and emotional in the work he produces. You can imagine each person and hear their thoughts, feel their emotions and understand their intentions through the detail he puts into each scene. Or you can step back and look at the work as a whole and feel a sense of familiarity like you've been there before and it's a memory that you've had.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural legacy includes utilizing organic shapes and geometry found in nature in his plans, known as the “Prairie style,” and incorporating modernism into American living. Traditional Japanese printmaking typically doesn’t come to one’s mind when evaluating Wright’s career and work. However, the architect was a life-long admirer of Japanese art and culture and collector of ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) prints. He discovered a wealth of inspiration from Japanese aesthetic that he incorporated into his architectural works. With the recent publication of Julia Meech’s book titled Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art of Japan - The Architect’s Other Passion (2007) and the art world’s interest in Eastern and Western hybridity of culture and influence, Wright’s relationship with Japan has brought to bear a new understanding of the architect’s work and the true underlying sources of modernism in Occidental culture.

For collectors, Haku Maki's images are quickly identifiable when you see a beautiful piece of textured calligraphy, or an almost aboriginal looking linear story, but there are a broader set of themes which Haku Maki explored in his art work. The visual overview in this blog explores these themes and his inspirations.

The moon has been a significant character throughout Japanese history dating back to as early as the Asuka period when Buddhist inspired art began to feature the sun and moon together as a popular theme. The moon not only represented a strong harvest, but also provided a form of personal enlightenment, solitude and appreciation of beauty. As the popularity of ukiyo-e grew during the Edo period, the artistic interpretation of the moon became easily accessible to regular citizens as this artwork was mass produced, and even extended it's influence into Western artists including Van Gogh and Monet. In this post, I have included selections of Japanese art featuring the moon from the Ukiyo-e, Shin Hanga and Sosaku Hanga movements.

The sight of a stone garden automatically brings to mind memories of my time in Japan. These stone gardens are beautiful temples to simplicity, peace, balance and meditation. A central part to the Japanese meditative experience, you will find stone gardens as a theme in Japanese art work of all eras, but particularly among those artists who participated in the Sosaku Hanga movement. In this post I explore some of my favorite works around this theme and highlight the artists who created them.

Hiroshi Yoshida is one of the most well known of the shin-hanga style artists and his prints are in high demand from customers all around the globe. There are many outlets to buy a Hiroshi Yoshida woodblock ranging from your local gallery, to online auction sites like eBay. With the varying sources to buy a Hiroshi Yoshida print, and the volume of prints available, it's important to educate yourself on how to distinguish a valuable early edition print from the later impressions, reproductions, and posthumous versions of a print. There are a variety of features to look for in a Hiroshi Yoshida print, but what we will focus on here is the jizuri seal.

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