Itō Shinsui is most famous for his bijin-ga prints (beautiful women), but his landscapes are equally beautiful. While Shinsui designed a few dozen landscape woodblock prints and published through Watanabe, the series “Ten Views of Shinano” offers a unique perspective. Towards the late phase of the Pacific war, when the strategic bombardments of Japan’s cities began in June 1944 by the US forces, Ito Shinsui was evacuated into the countryside and came to Komoro in Nagano Prefecture. It is at this time that he made his designs for the series Shinano Jukei, or “Ten Sights of Shinano”. These designs were published by Watanabe after the war in 1948. At this time we can only find instances of five of the ten designs.
A commemorative edition was printed in 1997 by Watanabe from the original blocks for the 100th birthday of Shinsui with an edition size specified as 195 (small edition and we’re unable to find any copies of these recently sold). This commemorative edition bears the Heisei publishing stamp of the Watanabe print shop.
The print presented here, however, is from the original edition (no Heisei stamp).
The Woodblock Print
This oban-sized woodblock is in excellent condition; rich color without any discolorations, clean margins, a clean verso. Visible woodgrain in the sky. 6mm Watanabe seal in the lower right corner of the image denoting the 1946-1957 timeframe (first edition).
About the Artist
Shinsui Itō (伊東 深水, February 1898 – 8 May 1972) was a Japanese artist who specialized in woodblock prints during the early 20th century. He was born in Tokyo in 1898 and was given the name Hajime Itō. He later changed his name to Shinsui, which means “truthful water” in Japanese. Shinsui was one of the leading artists of the shin hanga movement, which focused on creating traditional Japanese woodblock prints in a modern style.
Shinsui’s early work was influenced by the ukiyo-e prints of the Edo period, which featured colorful and intricate designs. He later developed his own style, which was characterized by simplified forms, bold lines, and muted colors. His prints often depicted beautiful women (bijin-ga), landscapes, and scenes from everyday life.
One of Shinsui’s most famous works is the series “Eight Views of Lake Biwa,” which was published in 1918. The series features eight woodblock prints that depict the scenic views of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. Shinsui’s use of muted colors and simplified forms in the series was a departure from the more elaborate and detailed prints of the Edo period.
Shinsui’s work was highly regarded in Japan and was also recognized internationally. He exhibited his prints in Europe and the United States, where they were well received by collectors and critics. In 1952, he was awarded the Order of Culture, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Japanese government.
Despite his success, Shinsui was known for his modesty and lived a simple life. He continued to produce prints until his death in 1972, at the age of 74.