Jun'ichirō, Sekino

Sekino Jun’ichirō (関野 凖一郎, 1914-1988) was a prominent Japanese printmaker known for his unique style of depicting contemporary Japanese life. Born in Tokyo, Sekino grew up in a family of artists and began his artistic training at an early age. He attended the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, where he studied traditional Japanese woodblock printing techniques and developed a deep appreciation for the craft.

Sekino’s early works were influenced by the social and political turmoil of pre-World War II Japan. In the 1930s, he created prints that reflected the growing militarism and nationalism of the time, such as “The Defense of the Nation” (1937), which depicts a soldier in full battle dress standing before a rising sun. However, Sekino’s political views changed after the war, and his later works focused on everyday life and the beauty of the natural world.

One of Sekino’s most significant contributions to the world of printmaking was his development of the “kappazuri” technique. This involved carving a design into a woodblock, then using the block to print onto a sheet of tissue paper. The tissue paper was then glued to a thicker backing paper, resulting in a delicate, translucent effect. Sekino used this technique to create stunning prints of landscapes, flowers, and animals, such as “Horse in a Snowstorm” (1960) and “Rooster and Hen” (1964).

Sekino’s reputation as a master printmaker grew throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and he received numerous awards and accolades for his work. In 1963, he was awarded the prestigious Japan Art Academy Prize, and in 1974, he was named a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government. Sekino’s prints are now held in the collections of major museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the British Museum in London.

Sekino was also a dedicated teacher and spent many years instructing students in the art of printmaking. He taught at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts and later at the Tama Art University, where he established a printmaking department. Many of Sekino’s students went on to become successful artists in their own right, carrying on his legacy of excellence in printmaking.

Sekino passed away in 1988 at the age of 74, leaving behind a body of work that continues to inspire and captivate art lovers around the world. His prints are celebrated for their technical mastery, subtle beauty, and profound insights into the Japanese way of life. As art historian Dr. Andreas Marks notes, “Sekino Jun’ichirō was one of the most important printmakers of post-war Japan. His works stand out for their technical precision, refined beauty, and deep understanding of traditional Japanese aesthetics.

Sources:

  • Marks, Andreas. Japanese Woodblock Prints: Artists, Publishers and Masterworks 1680-1900. Tuttle Publishing, 2010.
  • Merritt, Helen. Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Early Years. University of Hawaii Press, 1990.
  • Smith, Lawrence. Modern Japanese Prints: 1912-1989. British Museum Press, 1994.
  • “Sekino Jun’ichirō.” The Complete Works of Sekino Jun’ichirō, vol. 3, Akane Shobo, 2006.