What you ever wanted to know about...
     Tsuba - Swords - Ukiyo-e - Netsuke -Mingei - Studio ceramics - Sagemono - Japan



  Recover password?

Not registered yet?
Sign Up >


[print version]   [deutsch] [english]   

Search artist or catalogue number:  


Sosaku Hanga and Shin Hanga

Sosaku Hanga

Sosaku Hanga: Woodblock prints influenced by the idea of these artists who themselves carved their sketches in wood, printed it and hence called it „self-made“. With this self-conception they differenciated their works from other woodblock prints.

The „creative“ prints (sosaku hanga)

Sosaku hanga is an art movement of Japanese woodblock printing. In the early 20th century woodblock prints were not rated as an autonomous artwork but as crafts.

Since the artists, besides the sketches, barely had the possibility to influence the work and the people merely considered it as a mass product and as a medium to spread news, this art form was not respected by the Japanese themselves.

In the early 20th century when Japanese art students came more and more to Europe they learned another point of view of graphic arts because in Europe woodblock printing was rated as an autonomous artform. The Japanese students considered the fact that the artist was in full control of the work i. e. every step of the process as the major difference from the Japanese approach. In Japan several people were involved in the production, first the artist, who drew the sketch, then a person, who copies this scretch on the block, then the carver of the blocks and finally the printer, who decides the amount of colour, he uses individually for each print and finally the publisher who amongst other things decides the number of colours and the precision i.e. time to be allowed for each print with regard to the sales price, he anticipates.

The studies at an art-school versus the former technique to exclusively learn from one master and eventually a second one broadened the horizon of the students and through this they became more and more discontent with their traditional status as woodblock artists.

The new self-conception

Under these circumstances the so-called „sanja kyodo“ principle (division of labour) was further developed and the artists assumed now more responsability for their works. The new principles were jiga (self-designed/sketched), jigoku (self-carved) and jizuri (self-printed) that means the artist him/or herself performed all the three steps of production of a woodblock print. Besides those new techniques to the so far traditional subjects many unconventional and abstract themes – mainly influenced by Western style - were added. The picture was not defined anymore by the contour line, however the focus was turned to the plain area and the grain of the wooden block was incorporated into the design. The soft pastel shades dominated the picture giving it a strong reminiscence of French impressionist painting.

Fortunately the artists never abolished their close links to the publishers, wood carvers or printers, they stayed in touch and exchanged help and advice.

YAMAMOTO Kanae (1882–1946) with his print “The fisherman” of 1904 is regarded as the founder of the Sosaku Hanga movement. This oeuvre was highly influenced by Western style paintings and woodblock prints in the style of Art Nouveau/Jugendstil. Soon the new genre attracted many new followers and quickly increased in the 1920s and 30s. The artists from the universities and academys who were educated in classical painting as well as a few autodidacts joined the movement. They all considered woodblock prints as an autonomous form of art.

The artists

  • Azechi Umetaro (1902-1999)

  • Fujishima Takeji (1867-1943)

  • Fukazawa Sakuichi (1896-1947)

  • Hagiwara Hideo (geb. 1913)

  • Hashimoto Okiie (1899-1993)

  • Hatsuyama Shigeru (1897-1973)

  • Henmi Takashi (1895-1944)

  • Hirakawa Seizo (1897-1964)

  • Hiratsuka Un’ichi (1895-1997)

  • Hoshi Joichi (1913-?)

  • Hirafuku Hyakusui (1877-1933)

  • Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958)

  • Inagaki Tomoo (1902-1980)

  • Kawakami Sumio (1895-1972)

  • Kawanishi Hide (1894-1965)

  • Kitaoka Fumio (1918-?)

  • Kosaka Gajin (1877-1953)

  • Koizumi Kishio (1893-1945)

  • Maeda Masao (1904-1974)

  • Maekawa Senpan (1889-1960)

  • Mori Yoshitoshi (1898-1992)

  • Munakata Shiko (1903-1975)

  • Mizufune Rokushu (1912-1980)

  • Nagase Yoshio (1891-1978)

  • Nakazawa Hiromitsu (1874-1964)

  • Oda Kazuma (1882-1956)

  • Okuyama Gihachiro (1907-1981)

  • Onchi Koshir o (1891-1955)

  • Ono Tadashige (1909-1990)

  • Saito Kiyoshi (1907-1997)

  • Sakamoto Hanjiro (1882-1969)

  • Sekino Jun’ichir o (1914-1988)

  • Shimura Tatsumi (1907-1980)

  • Shimizu Koichi (1895-?)

  • Suwa Kanemori (1897-1946)

  • Takahashi Rikio (1917-1999)

  • Takehisa Yumeiji (1884-1934)

  • Taninaka Yasunori (1897-1946)

  • Tsuda Seifu (1880-1978)

  • Urushibara Mikuchu (1888-1953)

  • Watanabe Sadao (1913-1996)

  • Yamaguchi Gen (1896-1976)

  • Yamaguchi Susumu (1897-1983)

  • Yamamoto Kanae (1882–1946)

  • Yoshida Masaji (1917-1971)

Shin Hanga

Shin Hanga: Woodblock prints which deal with typical ukiyo-e themes but – contrary to the old Ukiyo-e Hanga - absorbed the principles of Western painting and claimed it to be an autonomous artform.

The „new“ prints (shin hanga)

The editor WATANABE, Shozaburo is regarded as the founder and precursor of the Shin Hanga movement. With his view that artists, publisher and craftsmen should equally work together he created the condition for this new genre.
HASHIGUCHI, Goyo (1880-1921) is said to be the first Shin Hanga artist. He embodied with his western painting technique combined with typical Japanese elements and point of views exactly what Watanabe was looking for. Consequently the first official work of this genre was Yokuba no Onna (woman in the bath) of 1915.
First the term shinsaku hanga (new created wooblock print) was used only to be quickly be replaced by the shorter term shin hanga (new prints).
This genre rapidly found many followers with Watanabe being the turning point. Other artists of the movement were HASUI, Kawase (1883-1957), OHARA, Koson, YOSHIDA, Hiroshi (1876-1950) and ITO, Shinsui (1898-1972). The quick increase of popularity and the flourishing trade suffered a terribly blow in 1923, when the big earthquake of the Kantô region completely destroyed Watanabe’s publishing house due to the big fire occurring after the quake, which burnt down most of the woodblocks and many of the prints.
However the trade quickly recovered and soon a new revival took place which lasted until the outbreak of World War II. Fortunately WATANABE, Shozaburo still had the chance to reopen his workshops, which even survived after his dealth in 1962.
In co-operation with Watanabe the artists now worked after the idea of the Sosaku Hanga artists influencing the process of production up to its finish.
In doing so new techniques occurred like nezumiban, a colour palette with gray shades to depict fog and shadow or gomazuri, a special spiral/helical grinding technique to simulate brush structures. Another invention was printing of a zinc plate, which offers sharp outlines very popular in order to design pattern in textiles, which can now show not only 12 but up to 50 colours.
One innovation was that a few pictures were printed in different editions varying in colouration, omitting shades etc., i.e. different seasons or times of the day could be depicted.


Unlike before the artists of Shin Hanga not only dealt with the colourful and short-lived hustle and bustle of the entertainment quarters and its environment. Also the later parodies criticising this lifestyle were not depicted anymore. The Meiji custom to use the pictures as advertising and as medium for information and news was abandoned.

The pictures still focused on the classical themes of the ukiyo-e. Beautiful women (bijin-ga), landscapes, plants and animals and some portraits of actors furtheron belonged to the canon of subjects but always in the context of Western conception.

The symbiosis of Western design and the atmospheric beauty of Japanese landscape and subjects seemed attractive to the Japanese audience but especially to the European and American art-lovers.

Artists under Watanabe

  • Bannai Kôkan (1900-?)

  • Furuya Taiken (1897-?)

  • Hashiguchi Goyô (1880-1921)

  • Hirano Hakuhô (1879-1957)

  • Ide Gakusui (1899-1978)

  • Ishiwata Kôitsu (1897-1978)

  • Itô Shinsui (1898-1972)

  • Itô Sôzan (1884-?)

  • Itô Takashi (1894-1982)

  • Iwata Sentarô (1901-1974)

  • Kasamatsu Shirô (1898-1991)

  • Kawase Hasui (1883-1957)

  • Kikuchi Ryôji (1920-?)

  • Kitagawa Kazuo (tätig um 1919)

  • Kobayakawa Kiyoshi (1898-1948)

  • Mutô Katei (1910-?)

  • Narazaki Eishô (1864-1936)

  • Natori Shunsen (1886-1960)

  • Oda Kazuma (1882-1956)

  • Ohara Shôson (1877-1945)

  • Ôta Masamitsu (1892-1975)

  • Takahashi Shôtei (1871-1945)

  • Tsuchiya Kôitsu 81870-1949)

  • Uehara Kônen (1878-1940)

  • Ueno Tadamasa (1904-1970)

  • Yamakawa Shûhô (1898-1944)

  • Yamamura Toyonari (1886-1942)

  • Yamanaka Tatsushige (1869-1937)

  • Yanagihara Fûkyo ( um 1921/22)

  • Tsukioka Gyokusei (1908-?)

Indipendent artists

  • Hashiguchi Goyô (1880-1921)

  • Ishikawa Toraji (1875-1964)

  • Yoshida Hiroshi (1876-1950)

  • Yoshida Toshi (1911-1996)

Artists with other publishers

  • Arai Yoshimune (1873-1945)

  • Dômoto Inshô (1891-1975)

  • Fujimaki Yoshio (1909-1935)

  • Hamada Josen (1875-?)

  • Hasegawa Sadanobu (1881-1963)

  • Hashimoto Kôhô (1893-1961)

  • Igawa Sengai (1876-1961)

  • Ikeda Shôen (1886-1917)

  • Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921)

  • Isoda Mataichirô (1907-1998)

  • Jinbo Tomoyo (1902-?)

  • Kitano Tsunetomi (1880-1947)

  • Komura Settei (1887-1940)

  • Miki Suizan (1887-1957)

  • Mutô Rokurô (1907-1995)

  • Nakayama Shûko (um 1924)

  • Nomura Yoshimitsu (um 1930)

  • Oda Tomiya (1896-?)

  • Ôhira Kasen (1900-1983)

  • Ôkubo Hajime (1911-?)

  • Shiba Hideo (1907-1979)

  • Shima Seien (1892-1970)

  • Shimura Tatsumi (1907-1980)

  • Shôda Kôhô (1871-1946)

  • Taniguchi Kôkyô (1864-1915)

  • Torii Kotondo (1900-1976)

  • Watanabe Ikuharu (1895-1975)

  • Yamada Basuke (um 1930/40)

  • Yamaguchi Sôhei (1882-1947)

  • Yomogida Heiemon (1882-1947)

  • Yoshikawa Kanpô (1894-1979)

  • Yoshimoto Gessô (1881-1936)

  • By Iris Hekeler

    The contents of this text was taken from the following books:

    MERRITT, Helen und YAMADA, Nanako: „Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975.” University of Hawai'i Press. Honolulu 1995.

    SCHWAN, Friedrich B.: „Handbuch japanischer Holzschnitt – Hintergründe, Techniken, Themen und Motive. IUDICIUM Verlag GmbH. München 2003. Seite 88, 167-168.

    last updated by mh! at 04.09.2007 09:53

      Ubierring 35, D-50678 Köln/Cologne
      Tel. +49 (0) 221 / 93 12 13 - 0, Fax. +49 (0) 221 / 93 12 13 - 20   Mobil. +49 (0) 172 / 530 11 12, e-Mail: auctions@klefisch.com


    powered by 
    MikeAir Design. Owner: Michael Hotopp