As the once-isolated nation of Japan entered the 20th century and began to assimilate a new, Westernized culture, demand for certain traditional handicrafts fell off significantly - among them, the iconic woodblock prints known in the West as ukiyo-e. Publishers and artists slowed production and created fewer new designs. Yet what seemed at first to be the death-knell of a unique art form without parallel in the world turned out to be the dawning of another, as the path was cleared for a new kind of print: shin hanga.
Seven Masters: 20th-Century Japanese Woodblock Prints focuses on seven artists who played a significant role in the development of the new print, and whose works boldly exemplify this new movement. Drawing from the superb collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the exhibition features the spectacular beauty portraits of the artists Hashiguchi Goyō (1880-1921), Itō Shinsui (1898-1972), Yamakawa Shūhō (1898-1944), and Torii Kotondo (1900-1976); striking images of kabuki actors by Yamamura Kōka (Toyonari) (1886-1942) and Natori Shunsen (1886-1960); as well as the evocative landscapes of Kawase Hasui (1883-1957).
These multi-talented artists were all successful painters as well, but this exhibit looks exclusively at their unrivaled work in print design and includes a cache of pencil drawings and rare printing proofs to offer insight into the exacting process of woodblock printing.
Seven Masters: 20th-Century Japanese Woodblock Prints was organized by the Minneapolis Institute of Art and is toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.