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The Unfinished Print

Jun 30, 2021

Up to this point for The Unfinished Print, the primary goal has been to share the lives and works of mokuhanga creatives, for those who want to understand how contemporary Japanese woodblock prints are made. While understanding contemporary mokuhanga is important I believe that one must also search the past histories of mokuhanga. History, how prints were made, sourced and produced in Japan will, I believe, help the contemporary mokuhanga artist understand their craft all the more. 

In this episode of The Unfinished Print I speak to Maureen de Vries, co-curator of the Nihon no Hanga gallery in Amsterdam. A small boutique gallery which is the vision of Elise Wessels, a collector who’s passion for the Japanese print led her to create a place for people to see and be educated on mokuhanga. 

Maureen and I speak on multiple ideas and concepts about modern Japanese prints, post Meiji Period (1868-1912), such as how these prints were viewed in Japanese and Western society. We do this via Nihon no Hanga’s exhibitions. We try to understand the ideas and concepts behind the production of woodblock prints in that era. We also speak esoterically about what it means to produce prints from history, what is considered an “original” print, as well as how people from the past and today view post-Meiji mokuhanga. I certainly hope when you listen to this episode you will be inspired to friendly debate, and realize that there can be a lot more involved when trying to understand mokuhanga. 

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Notes: notes may contain a hyperlink. Simply click on the highlighted word or phrase.

Nihon no Hanga - website 

Itō Shinsui (1898-1972) - Nihon-ga, and woodblock print artist and designer who worked for print publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō (1885-1962). Shinsui designed some of our most famous shin hanga, or “new” prints of the early 20th century. One of my favorites is “Fragrance of a Bath” 1930.

Hashiguchi Goyō (1880-1921) - a woodblock print designer who also worked, albeit shortly, with Shōzaburō. In his short life Goyō designed some of the most iconic woodblock prints ever made. “Kamisuki” 1920, and “Woman Applying Powder” 1918. 

shin hanga/sōsaku hanga - on the surface shin hanga, the new print movement that began with Watanabe Shōzaburō and sōsaku hanga started by Kanae Yamamoto (1882-1946) couldn’t be more different. Whereas the shin hanga movement harked back to an idillic time  of ukiyo-e, sōsaku hanga looked to folk traditions and a more rustic aesthetic. Both can be considered “new” prints in my estimation as both began to present their products to a general population at a time when mokuhanga was on the decline.

Kondō Kōichiro (1884-1962) - a painter who produced a small amount of woodblock prints. Produced a series of printed called Senryu Manga dedicated to the poetry of Kenkabo Inoue (1870-1934). For more info and to see his work check out the Artelino page.

Koizumi Kishio (1893-1945) - from Shizuoka, Kishio was a sōsaku print artist. Although his work, such as “Girl Before a Mirror,” 1933, shows the aesthetic of shin hanga in my opinion, so talented was he. For more information, Scholten Japanese Art has a great write up on him with an image of the above print.

Nihon no Hanga has a wonderful array of catalogues for sale on their website, here.  They are incredibly well done and very accessible scholastically. Every exhibit spoken about by Maureen in this episode can be found on their website.

Junichirō Seki (1914-1988) - an accomplished sōsaku hanga printmaker , Seki travelled the world and his work was published in Oliver Statler’s groundbreaking work “Modern Japanese Prints,” 1956. For more info on Seki and a visual of his works Artelino does a great job, here.

Onchi Kōshirō (1891-1955) - arguably one of the most important sōsaku hanga printmakers. Coming from an aristocratic family he had an oil painter background. He designed books for money as he was making his prints. His “First Thursday Society” began in 1939, is what helped printmakers make their prints away from censorship by the military fascist government in Japan at the time. For more info regarding Onchi click here, here, and here

Rijks Museum - the national museum of the Netherlands. Opened originally im 1800 the museum has moved several times, finally resting at its current location in 1885. The museum holds masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and others.

The New Wave: Twentieth Century Prints of the Robert O Mueller Collection  -  was a book published by Bamboo Publishing in 1993. It is long out of print and very expensive.

Emil Orlick (1870-1932) - was a Prague born artist who also worked in the medium of woodblock. He travelled expensively throughout the world, especially to Japan. His woodblock prints are of portraits landscapes and of people. For more information is a good start. 

Doi Hanga and Mokuhankan - the collaboration between the Doi Hanga print company and David Bull’s Mokuhankan began in 2016. Videos can be found here regarding how the collaboration began and where it’s at. You can purchase the Doi Hanga collaborations here.

Wada Sanzō (1883-1967) - an oil painter who at a young age would cover the Japanese colonial experiment through his paintings in the 1930’s. Sanzō began to be interested in woodblock prints when supervising his artist friend’s , Ōno Bakufu (1888-1976), project. Sanzō’s designs would become popular throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s as they showed the everyday of life, focusing on professions and occupations of the Japanese people of the time. His works straddles wartime propaganda and post war Japanese cultural idealism which makes Nihon no Hanga’s 2021 show about Sanzō “Memories of Shōwa,” so interesting.

oban - Japanese woodblock print’s come in various sizes. "Oban" is considered 10x15 inches. Artelino has a great guide on print sizes here.

opening and closing credit background music:  “Changes” by Charles Bradley, 2016. It’s a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes,” from their Vol.4 album, 1972. 

© Popular Wheat Productions

Disclaimer: Please do not reproduce or use anything from this podcast without shooting me an email and getting my express written or verbal consent. I'm friendly :) The opinions expressed in The Unfinished Print podcast are not necessarily those of Andre Zadorozny and of Popular Wheat Productions.