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From Nov 4, 2006 until Feb 25, 2007 the 27th Yoshida Hanga Academy Exhibition takes place in Tokyo. By kind permission and assistance of one of the exhibiting artists, Mr. Ryusei Okamoto, we are happy to show you on this page photos from the grand opening and give you a bit of background about this prestigious private academy.
Friends of Japanese art prints are familiar with the Yoshida family whose members have contributed over several generations so greatly to the development of modern Japanese prints and fine arts. Best known are Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950) and his eldest son Toshi Yoshida.
Kasaburo Yoshida (1861-1894), the adoptive father of Hiroshi Yoshida, was a painter in Western style. Hiroshi Yoshida had begun as a painter. Around 1920 he discovered the medium of the Japanese woodblock print when he met a Tokyo art dealer and publisher, Watanabe Shozaburo. After the great Kanto earthquake of 1923 Hiroshi Yoshida and his wife Fujio Yoshida (1887-1987), also a painter, embarked on a ship that took them to the United States. With them they had a large number of paintings and a few woodblock prints hoping to sell them in the United States. But it turned out different from what they had expected. While they met on little demand for the paintings, Hiroshi Yoshida recognized that Americans had a lively interest in his woodblock prints.
In the 1950s Oliver Statler, an American writer and mentor of modern Japanese art prints had interviewed Fujio Yoshida about the U.S.A. trip of 1923.
"We started in December after the earthquake. In addition to my husband's paintings we took the works of a number of other artists, trying to help some of those who had lost almost everything in the disaster. We had shows in several major cities, but we sold discouragingly few pictures. There was a good deal more interest in a few prints that my husband had taken along - his first prints, commissioned and published by the house of Watanabe. The fine reception given these prints, plus the fact that several foreign print-artists had recently created a stir in Japan, made my husband think that the Japanese had better get busy in the field that was once their own, and he started concentrating on prints as soon as we returned. It was then that he decided to become his own publisher."
This was the beginning of what could be called the "Yoshida Enterprise". Back at home in 1926 Hiroshi Yoshida and his wife deployed all their energy and considerable financial means to establish themselves as independent printmakers and become their own publisher. Hiroshi Yoshida hired a number of carvers and printers such as Yamagishi Kazue and Maeda Yujiro and personally learned the skills of carving and printing. The artist mentioned in a later publication the amount of USD 150,000 that the establishment of his own workshop had required and that it took 10 years to get the return on this investment.
Toshi Yoshida, the eldest son of Hiroshi Yoshida took over the responsibility for the "Yoshida Enterprise". He had inherited from his father and mother not only the talent as an artist but also the passion for travelling and for mountaineering. He is said to have started drawing at the age of three.
When Toshi Yoshida came on several occasions to the USA to teach woodblock printmaking at the Mendocino Art Center in California, he decided to establish an art school in Japan. He found an old, abandoned school house in the Northern Alps in a small village named Miasa. This was the beginning of the Yoshida Hanga Academy also known as the Bunkacenter.
The Yoshida Academy became one of the most influential school for Japanese woodblock printmaking after world war II. Like his father, Toshi Yoshida employed professional carvers and printers.
The Yoshida academy was not only the forge for many young Japanese art students. The fact that Toshi Yoshida was not only an outstanding artist but also fluent in English, attraceted many foreigners - mostly from the U.S.A.. Many of today's established Western artists who practice the Japanese method of printmaking, learned the trade at the Yoshida Academy. We know of Sarah Brayer, Carol Jessen, Micah Schwaberow (he became an assistant to Toshi Yoshida and stayed overall for 2 years), Ralph Kiggell, born 1960.
When Paul Binnie came to Tokyo in 1993, he had planned to learn with Toshi Yoshida. But at that time, the great master was already very ill and no longer took students. Toshi Yoshida died in 1995. Today the Yoshida Academy is run by his son Tsukasa Yoshida, born 1949.
Hiroshi Yoshida's second son, Hodaka (1926-1995), became a scientist who pursued painting as a serious hobby. Hodaka married an artist, who became well-known. Her name is Chizuko Yoshida, born 1925. And their daughter Ayomi Yoshida, born 1958, became an artist and printmaker.
Also Toshi Yoshida's wife, Kiso Yoshida (1919-2005) was an artist. Although all Yoshida artists share the same family spirit, their styles are quite different.
The Hanga Academy Exhibition is an annual event open for members of the Hanga Academy - former and current students. The following pictures were taken by Mr. Ryusei Okamoto, a former elite student of Toshi Yoshida. The images are from the vernissage evening.
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