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Onchi Kōshirō, The Sea, a triptych, 1 painted study and 2 colour woodblock prints

© 2001 Estate of Onchi Kōshirō

 

Height: 955.000 mm (painting)
Width: 640.000 mm (painting)
Height: 955.000 mm (painting)
Width: 640.000 mm (painting)
Height: 955.000 mm (painting)
Width: 640.000 mm (painting)

Asia JP ADD1135 (1998.7-16.01);Asia 1989.3-14.067 (left sheet);Asia 1989.3-14.068 (right sheet)

    Onchi Kōshirō, The Sea, a triptych, 1 painted study and 2 colour woodblock prints

    Japan
    Shōwa era, around AD 1937

    Onchi Kōshirō (1891-1955) was one of the most influential twentieth-century Japanese print artists, also active as a poet, painter, illustrator, book designer, and critic. He was the leading figure in the Sōsaku Hanga ('Creative Print') movement. These artists carried out all stages of print production themselves, whereas traditionally the process was divided between publishers, artists, block-cutters and printers. They saw the woodblock print as a form of artistic expression with a potential equal to painting. Onchi aimed to create prints as original works of art in themselves, and it is unusual that in this case the central print was based on an oil painting. The Sea is the only triptych that he made, and only two full printed versions are believed to have been produced. The British Museum has the preparatory oil painting for the central panel, but not the final print.

    The smaller, square left and right panels featuring fish and shells seen in rock pools, on either side of the nude female bathers, mark the beginning of the abstraction based on natural forms which characterized Onchi's later work. He was interested in the sea from his youth, and already in previous works linked the sea with the female body. The contrasts between the central and flanking panels are striking - of subject, technique and colour.

    L. Smith, and V. Harris, Modern Japanese prints, 1912-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

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