A solo hiker makes their way across a plank bridge over the Takegawa River at dawn; a forest of birch trees and pines and lush foliage fills the landscape, great mountains rising in the distance, the peaks displaying warm orange light from the sunrise. The river rushes below the bridge, running a few rapids and creating a foam. As an avid fly fisherman, I imagine this is me, hiking through the mountains (perhaps in northern VT or CO), my tenkara gear in the backpack.
A peaceful, quiet, beautifully drawn scene.
The Woodblock Print
This oban-sized woodblock is in very good condition; lovely color, detail, and contrasts. A clean verso but discolorations from tape in the past. Clean and intact margins.
We believe this to be an early, pre-war edition as it is missing the typical 6mm Watanabe seal yet is signed in pencil on the lower margin.
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.