The glow of a setting sun behind Mt. Fuji reveals a traditional thatched roofed homes, with windows still aglow in the evening light. Tall trees with stark bare trunks and limbs created strong contrast to the romantic scene, beautifully rendered with many subtle gradations of color and contrast.
A rarely seen masterpiece by Takashi Ito.
The Woodblock Print
This oban-sized woodblock is in very fine condition; stunning color, detail, contrasts and visible woodgrain. There is no visible publisher mark, but that seems to be common for this print published in 1952. There is edge matburn on the margins and toning on the otherwise clean verso.
About the Artist
Ito Takashi (伊藤孝之, 1894-1982) was born in Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture, studied art at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, and was a student at the private school of Kiyokata Kaburagi. Kaburagi was the master of nihonga painting in traditional Japanese style. Kaburagi knew the publisher Watanabe Shozaburo well and his painting class developed into something like a “talent pool” for Watanabe who was looking for excellent young artists who wanted to work for him.
Takashi became one of the artists working for Watanabe. He made about 50 landscape prints for the publisher in the 1920s (with the first in 1922) and the 1930s and also after the war. Watanabe considered Takashi Ito as one of his “upper league” designers like Kawase Hasui or Ito Shinsui; their works were mostly published in Oban or larger formats.
The landscape prints by Takashi are reminiscent of German 19th century paintings and prints, full of lonely romanticism. Like Kawase Hasui, also Ito Takashi shows seldom more than one person in his designs, creating an eerie and sentimental mood when contemplating a Takashi print. The style in which Takashi Ito prints were created looks more like brush stroke paintings than typical Japanese woodblock prints with a lot of color gradation instead of plain even color areas that are so typical for classical Japanese ukiyo-e – it required highly skilled carvers and printers to produce Takashi Ito prints. An incomplete list of his work found here.