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Yoshida Hiroshi

2018.07.20(Fri) - 2018.08.28(Tue)


Yoshida Hiroshi (1876 - 1950) was a central figure in the artists’ society, Taiheiyogakai, leading Western-style painting in the genres of watercolor, oil painting and woodblock printing in Japan in the early 20th century. He had drawings published as woodblock prints at the age of 44 and produced his first collection when he was 49. Yoshida aimed to create a new style by bringing together the realistic rendering of European paintings and techniques of traditional Japanese woodblock printing.
Having great affinity with Nature, Yoshida was convinced that beauty was to be discovered in the natural domain, and by expressing it through his works he endeavored to mediate the beauty to man whose perception failed to appreciate it. Yoshida mainly depicted landscapes, which were derived from his extensive field trips — throughout Japan as well as in other countries.
The exhibition presents about 80 woodblock prints from his various well-known series, including Ten Views of Fuji, as well as The Inland Sea Series, which captures transient, momentary expressions of the Setonaikai sea.



◆Variations rendered using the same woodblocks

Some of his prints express the changes in ambiance and atmosphere through the passage of time, for example, from early morning, foggy hours through evening lights to night time, by using the same woodblock and changing execution. The SAILING BOATS series is an example.SAILING BOATS-MORNING The Inland Sea Series
SAILING BOATS-MIST The Inland Sea Series  
Yoshida Hiroshi (1876–1950) Dated 1926

◆Extraordinary details

Yoshida’s prints are pressed 30 times on average. To render the minute details, some of them are pressed more than 70 times — his YŌMEIMON GATE used 96 pressings.YŌMEIMON GATE Yoshida Hiroshi (1876–1950) Dated 1937


◆Production on large-size paper

In woodblock printing, the paper must be moistened before pressing, which causes shrink. Large sized paper is particularly difficult to print for this reason, causing misalignment of different colors. Yoshida overcame this problem and succeeded in producing many large-size prints.THE MORNING SUNRISE Ten Views of Fuji
Yoshida Hiroshi (1876–1950) Dated 1926


Yoshida Hiroshi the artist

◆Extensive travels in Europe and the Americas

Yoshida was born in 1876 as the second son of a feudal samurai family of Ueda in the city of Kurume, Fukuoka. He moved to Fukuoka city in 1887 to attend a public school, where an art teacher, Yoshida Kasaburo, recognized his aptitude for art and adopted him into his family in 1891. Subsequently, Hiroshi was sent to Kyoto in 1893, at the age of 17, to study under Tamura Shoryu (1846 - 1918), a well-known teacher of western-style painting. Later, he moved to Tokyo to join an art school Fudosha, led by Koyama Shotaro (1957 - 1916). In 1899, he decided to travel to North America with his collection of watercolors, accompanied by his younger colleague, Nakagawa Hachiro. Yoshida was 23 years old and had only enough money for one month’s living. He then found great success in selling many of his works at the Detroit Institute of Arts and other galleries. Having garnered sufficient funds from the sales, he further traveled around Europe before returning to Japan two years later. Again in 1903, the artist took to the USA, this time with his sister-in-law and future wife, Fujio. They spent the subsequent three years traveling in America as well as in Europe. Though it was time when few people traveled abroad, Yoshida had opportunities to study Western art, classic and contemporary alike, while developing drawing skills as he continued drawing during his trip. Back in Japan, he served as a judge at various major exhibitions. Thus, he became a significant figure in the development of modern Western paintings in Japan.


◆Yoshida and woodblock printing

Yoshida was 44 years old when he met Watanabe Shozaburo, an art publisher. Through this encounter, Yoshida published his first woodblock print entitled The Sacred Garden in Meiji Shrine, followed by Sailing Boats and Mt. Hodaka. In early days, he was only involved as much as to provide drawings for the design, but a crucial event took place in 1923—the Great Kantō earthquake. To give support to the fellow artists who fell victim to the disaster, Yoshida traveled to the USA for the third time. However, during this stay, his perception of woodblock printing started to change. He became aware that Japanese woodblock prints were very popular in the USA. This realization made him think that the traditional techniques should be respected to create a new genre of this art form.

Upon his return to Japan in 1925, he published his woodblock print collections North America Series (6 pieces) and Europe Series (11 pieces), of which he oversaw the entire process himself for the first time. Thereafter, Yoshida dedicated his creative activities to woodblock printing as much as to oil painting.

While the carvers and printers employed in production were all experienced experts, Yoshida oversaw their work closely. The prints thus produced are stamped with a mark of authenticity. Yoshida himself strove to master the skills in carving so as to be able to instruct his craftsmen more effectively. A few prints were thus produced by his own hands.


Landscapes through Yoshida’s eyes


Exotic landscapes

Yoshida produced many woodblock prints depicting landscapes outside Japan, based on the drawings he made during his visits to America and Europe, taking more than seven years in total over three trips. These include THE GRAND CANYON, NIAGARA FALLS and MOUNT RAINIE. Yoshida made a tour of India and Southeast Asia in 1930, accompanied by his son, Toshi. The woodblock prints based on the drawings he made during this trip were published in the following year, including THE GOLDEN PAGODA OF RANGOON, THE TAJ MAHAL GARDENS and THE PALACE OF UDAIPUR. In 1937, he published a 12-piece series of Korea and Manchuria, including CHANGGYONG PALACE, NORTH TOMBS and A MARKET IN MUKDEN. That year, he was dispatched to China as a military painter, where he spent three years. His SUZHOU is one of the works that originated in this period. As these works eloquently convey, the world’s scenic beauty as Yoshida saw is captured in his enticing woodblock prints.



Yoshida was partial to mountains throughout his life and left many artworks depicting them. He also published a book On the Beauty of Takayama, in which he expounded the aesthetic aspects of mountains recognized by the artist. From his 30s to 50s, he would go into mountains and make drawings in summer and spend the rest of the year dedicated to creating paintings and woodblock printing. The series Twelve Scenes in the Japan Alps and Ten Views of Fuji are the fruits of this period. His gaze at mountains was also directed to those outside Japan, as seen in MOUNT RAINIE, THE MATTERHORN and many other pieces. His enthusiasm with the beauty of mountains is also seen in the fact that he inaugurated the Japan Society of Mountain Paintings when he was 60 years old.



Many of Yoshida’s works depict water in various forms, such as streams, ponds, lakes and the sea. Often the water reflects the scenery above it, and it is effected with minute precision and realistic rendering, which is made possible by the artist’s unique method involving numerous blocks. Notice how the setting sun shimmering on the sea water is rendered using the marks from a rounded chisel in GLITTERING SEA, part of The Inland Sea Series.