Presented here is the only existing copy that we can find of Ito Takashi’s work entitled “Mt. Fuji seeing from the West foot”; we can not find any other copies of it existing and were only able to identify it through the thumbnail image on page 110 of the 1936 Watanabe print catalog shown here, identified as E47.
This print is vastly different than the majority of Ito Takashi’s work in that it is a single-color print; research tells us that this is most likely an early-career print as he was apparently still experimenting with color and composition before launching into his fully realized color designs. But this leads us to a bit of a conundrum – Takashi’s early blocks were destroyed in the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, and yet this print has a 6mm seal and post-earthquake sticker on it.
The Woodblock Print
This oban-sized woodblock is in very fine condition; lovely color, detail, and contrasts. Clean and intact margins, clean verso. 6mm Watanabe seal in the lower right corner, Watanabe publisher sticker on the verso. Consistent toning to the paper. There is a flaw in the paper on the front, near the right base of the slope of the mountain – it seems that there is a pre-printing “roll” in the paper. This isn’t visible from the verso, and it looks like the printing just went over it, so it’s part of the print itself now.
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.