The grounds of Hōryūji (Hōryū Temple) house the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures, conveying images of Japan as it existed more than 1,300 years ago, during the Asuka Period (A.D. mid 6th – beginning of 8th c.). The story of Hōryūji’s founding can be seen in the historical writings engraved on the back of the halo of the Yakushi Nyorai Buddha statue, located on the eastern side of the room in the temple’s Main Hall, and in the official inventory of Hōryūji property holdings recorded in 747. According to these records, the emperor Yōmei vowed to build a temple and an image of a Buddha as a form of prayer for his own recovery from illness – a vow he was never fated to fulfill, for he died shortly thereafter.
The Woodblock Print
This “large oban”-sized woodblock is in very good condition, while defects to it are limited to the margins and verso. Strong, rich color, as opposed to the brighter colors used in later editions. There is tape discoloration to the verso, some of which bleeds through to the front, but limited to the margins.
Tsuchiya Koitsu (土屋光逸, September 23, 1870 – November 13, 1949) was a renowned Japanese artist known for his exceptional woodblock prints depicting landscapes, cities, and traditional Japanese scenes. Born in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, Koitsu’s artistic talent was recognized at a young age, and he studied under prominent artists such as Kobayashi Kiyochika and Ogata Gekko. Koitsu’s works gained widespread popularity during the early 20th century, and he became a prominent figure in the Shin Hanga, or “new print,” movement.
Tsuchiya Koitsu was born in Hamamatsu, Japan, in 1870 with the given name Koichi. At a young age, he showed a keen interest in art and began studying traditional Japanese painting. He later joined the studio of the famous woodblock print artist Kobayashi Kiyochika, who taught him the techniques of woodblock printmaking. Koitsu’s early works were influenced by Kiyochika’s style, characterized by bold and dynamic compositions.
Koitsu’s talent and dedication to his craft quickly gained recognition, and he became a sought-after artist in the burgeoning woodblock print market. His works often depicted landscapes and cities, capturing the natural beauty of Japan and its urban environments with meticulous attention to detail. Koitsu’s prints were known for their vibrant colors, delicate shading, and skillful use of perspective, which set him apart from his contemporaries.
In 1931, Koitsu began collaborating with the publisher Doi Sadaichi, who played a crucial role in promoting his prints. Doi Sadaichi was known for his high-quality publications, and his collaboration with Koitsu resulted in a series of prints that became highly sought after by collectors. The collaboration continued for over a decade, during which Koitsu created some of his most iconic works. One of Koitsu’s notable contributions to the woodblock print genre was his skillful depiction of nighttime scenes. He was renowned for his ability to capture the interplay of light and shadow, as well as the atmospheric effects of moonlight and street lamps in his prints. Koitsu’s nighttime scenes, often featuring tranquil streets, temples, and shrines bathed in a serene glow, were particularly popular and helped establish his reputation as a master of this genre.
Koitsu’s prints gained international recognition, and his works were exhibited in Japan and abroad. He received numerous awards for his prints, including the prestigious Teiten Exhibition Prize in 1916 and 1918. His works were also exhibited at the Imperial Art Academy and the Tokyo Fine Arts Academy, further solidifying his reputation as a leading artist of his time. Tsuchiya Koitsu’s contributions to the Shin Hanga movement and his mastery of woodblock printmaking techniques left a lasting impact on the art world. His prints continue to be highly regarded and sought after by collectors and art enthusiasts worldwide. His innovative use of perspective, attention to detail, and skillful depiction of nighttime scenes have made him a renowned figure in the history of Japanese printmaking.
- “Tsuchiya Koitsu: The Complete Works” by Ross F. Walker
- “Shin-Hanga: New Prints in Modern Japan” by Kendall H. Brown
- “Japanese Woodblock Prints: Artists, Publishers and Masterworks, 1680-1900” by Andreas Marks