Rare Sosaku Hanga Woodblock Print by Hiratsuka 1946
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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Woodblock Prints: Pre 1910: item # 1188525
Please refer to our stock # b6238 when inquiring.
Brian Page Antiques
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|A Rare & Large Japanese Woodblock Print by Un'ichi Hiratsuka 1946 22 3/8 x 15 7/8 ins. (56.8 x 40.5 cms) This very large and striking design is probably one of the most rare Sosaku Hanga prints by a significant artist. Hiratsuka (1895- 1997) was 102 years of age when he died and had been, with Onchi, one of the leaders of the Sosaku Hanga movement. He gathered around him a group of artists who, in the main, shared his Northern Japan origins whereas Koshiro Onchi was most influential among the artists of Southern Japan. Hiratsuka's history can be found on Google. In Oliver Statler's seminal work, "Modern Japanese Prints. An Art Reborn" (Tokyo 1956) he illustrates the present design at Pl. 19 (see photo below) and relates its genesis in the appendix. Apparently Hiratsuka visited China in 1943 and based this design on his sketches of one of the 15th. century sculptures in the caves at Yunkang near Tatung, China. It is the right hand attendant of a group of three and is around 20 feet high. (Let us pray the Taliban don't find them!). It is printed with 5 blocks, 2 of sakura (cherry) and 3 of Katsura. The paper is Hodomura, a paper that was apparently preferred by Hiratsuka but which is rather easily damaged. Statler, who knew Hiratsuka writes the design was originally printed in 1946 but that in 1956, the date of publication of his book, only 10 examples had been printed, not a lot in 10 years! So 10 printings in 10 years seems to indicate that its lack of popularity made it more trouble than it was worth to produce. Statler also writes that Hiratsuka said his editions are usually about 50 impressions for landscapes and thirty for other subjects, although there are obviously exceptions. Also one wonders at what market Hiratsuka was aiming. At that time many modern print artists consciously aimed their works at the members of the American occupation, their traditional market of Japanese collectors having been much depleted by death and by poverty. As the only other example we could find on the internet is a lithographic copy it seems possible that no more than 10 were printed by Hiratsuka making it a very rare item indeed. The example in Statler, from his own collection, is slightly smaller but he probably measured the image without the margins, or maybe the margins had been trimmed off. As can be seen from the photos, the condition is not perfect, not surprising given the vulnerability of the paper. The margins are foxed but the image has escaped much of the foxing. Three of the corners had deficiencies which have been repaired. The top right corner was intact. The left hand top corner had a tear which extended into the image but has been neatly repaired. There are various repaired splits and tears in the margins, some of which extend into the image. The red Hiratsuka seal on the lower left margin has the lower third kanji missing although the print is sealed again to the left of the image. All four edges have been reinforced with a thin strip of Japanese paper to prevent further tearing of the edges.|