Japan Art and Azechi Umetaro: Post-War Prints
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Azechi Umetaro (1902-1999) was a printmaker who focused heavily on depicting people connected to mountains – and mountain landscapes.
He was born in the prefecture of Ehime. His family were farmers who struggled economically. Between the early 1920s and 1925, he lived between Shikoku and Tokyo after the devastating Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.
The Portland Art Museum says, “A farm boy from Ehime on the island of Shikoku, Azechi endured years of failure and impoverishment before winning recognition for his prints. Azechi joined the circle of print artists who formed around Hiratsuka Un’ichi and began to make woodblock prints with Hiratsuka’s encouragement. Azechi developed his own expressive technique, using a flat, straight-end chisel to scrape the edge of a line, leaving it both soft and coarse. His love of mountaineering inspired subject matter that was deliberately rough, stark, and richly colored.”
The prints in this article belong to the post-war period and up until 1954.
The British Museum says, “His early work was typical of the ‘Sosaku Hanga’ movement, especially in monochrome, but a dignified and densely pigmented landscape style slowly developed, reaching early maturity in the series ‘lyo fukei’ (ten prints, 1936). The travel needed to sketch for this series awoke his love of the mountains of Japan, which he began to explore passionately on frequent climbing visits. Increasingly involved with the community of ‘Sosaku Hanga’ artists, he contributed to ‘One Hundred New Views of Japan’ in 1939 and 1941.”
His prints are very distinctive – and Azechi’s love of mountains can be felt deeply!
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