Shōun, Yamamoto

Yamamoto Shōun (山本 昇雲, December 30, 1870 – May 10, 1965), who is also known as Matsutani Shōun, was a Japanese print designer, painter, and illustrator. He was born in the city of Kōchi in Kōchi Prefecture, into a family of retainers of the shōgun and was given the name Mosaburō. As a teenager, he studied Kanō-school painting with Yanagimoto Doso and Kawada Shoryu. At about age 17, he moved to Tokyo, where he studied Nanga painting with Taki Katei. At 20 years of age, he was employed as an illustrator for Fugoku gaho, a pictorial magazine dealing with the sights in and around Tokyo. In his latter career, Shōun primarily produced paintings. He died in 1965, at the age of 96.

In addition to his magazine illustrations, Shōun is best known for his woodblock prints of beautiful women and a group of humorous shikishiban (prints about 7 by 8 inches). Shōun is considered a bridge between ukiyo-e and shin-hanga, while his career spans the Meiji (1868–1912), Taishō (1912–1926) and Shōwa (1926–1989) periods.

Until the year 2003 collectors of Japanese woodblock prints used to know Shoun Yamamoto mainly by his series of beautiful women from the series “Fashions of Today – Ima Sugata”. Then in 2003 the art collector and dealer Robert O. Muller passed away, leaving to the world a collection of thousands of mainly shin-hanga prints. A representative part of his collection of Japanese prints was bequeathed to the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. And a much greater part went into the market and thus was made available to the public. Among the Robert O. Muller prints that went into the market, were also designs by Shoun Yamamoto that had hardly been known before.

Yamamoto Shōun signed most of his works with a very small compact signature reading Shōun (昇雲).