Among the most popular and sought-after artists of the early shin-hanga movement, Hiroshi Yoshida is unique in that his woodblock print work was exclusively printed by his own publishing company, Yoshida Studio, founded in 1925. This differs from artists such as Kawase Hasui, Tsychiya Koitsu, (early) Shiro Kasamatsu, Ito Shinsui and others whose work was published by Watanabe, Doi, Uchida, and others.
In regards to Hiroshi Yoshida’s woodblocks it is important to understand that there are different iterations of his work, each denoted by additional seals or lack of seals, and each can command a significantly different value as a result… so look carefully at the margins of a Hiroshi Yoshida print when you’re shopping!
Jizuri seal (meaning “self-printed”)
|The jizuri seal is perhaps the most important mark on a Hiroshi Yoshida print as it helps distinguish an early edition where the printing process was directly supervised by the artist. Jizuri translates to “self-printed” and indicates a print that Hiroshi Yoshida played an active role in the printing process of that piece. Hiroshi focused heavily on developing prints of the highest quality and normally only the prints with the best impressions received his Jizuri seal. It is important to note that a lack of jizuri seal does not mean it is a post-humous printing, but that the artist was involved in its printing. In most cases the jizuri seal could be found in the upper left margin of a Hiroshi Yoshida print, but there are some prints where it is stamped in the bottom or right margins.
Toku seal (meaning “special”)
|A seal that we’ve only come across twice, the toku seal seems to be similar in usage to Watanabe’s “gift” seal; one where the artist or publishing studio created a highest-quality printing and gave it as a gift to a person of prominence or as thanks.
Commemorative seal (画集記念後摺)
|In 1985, to celebrate a major exhibition of Hiroshi Yoshida’s prints in Japan, Hiroshi Yoshida’s eldest son, Toshi Yoshida, published a number of his father’s prints in commemoration, from the original blocks. These prints were of very high quality, and according to Toshi limited to 300 impressions.
It is assumed that Hiroshi Yoshida prints without a jizuri seal (or any other seals) are post-humous prints, but it’s possible that this isn’t entirely correct. Yoshida Studio was making printings of his prints while he was alive, printing from the original blocks, but that he himself wasn’t directly involved in the printing. These prints can still be old, just not printed by him.
All of Hiroshi Yoshida’s prints have his Japanese signature and seal inside the image area, and then most of them have an English signature in the margin below the print. This signature comes in two forms: pencil-signed and block-signed. It can sometimes be tricky to differentiate, and many sellers aren’t that knowledgeable in this regard, as the block-signed can look pencil-signed. But if you see the different signatures below you can form your own opinion. One characteristic is that the block-signed is identical to the block-signed example below, it didn’t vary. The second is that the block-signed never crossed over into the image zone of the print, it was confined to the margin; so if the signature extends into the image it is likely pencil signed.