Yamamoto Kanae (山本鼎) (Biographical details)

Yamamoto Kanae (山本鼎) (printmaker; Japanese; Male; 1882 - 1946)

Also known as

Yamamoto Kanae


Print artist. Born in Okazaki in Aichi Prefecture, Yamamoto was apprenticed to the wood-engraving workshop of Sakurai Torakichi in Tokyo in his teenage years. This gave him a lifelong insight into Western-style representation of light and shade and a persistent ambition to be an oil-painter, which was always at odds with an instinctive Japanese taste for simple composition and flat planes. From 1902 to 1906 he studied oil-painting at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts and during this time produced the first acknowledged 'Sosaku Hanga' (creative print), published and publicised by Ishii Hakutei (q.v.) in the magazine 'Myojo' in 1904. With Hakutei and Morita Tsunetomo (1881-1933) he founded the important art and literature magazine 'Hosun' (1907-11), which promoted among many other things contemporary Westernising prints; in 1908-11 he belonged to the Bohemian 'Pan' Society, which became suspected by the police of socialist activities. He worked with Sakamoto Hanjiro (q.v.) on a series of actor prints (Soga butai sugata), issued in 1911, with the unsuccessful intention of reviving the 'Ukiyo-e' print tradition of kabuki theatre subjects in a modern style.
In 1912 Yamamoto went to France and produced a few pioneering woodblock prints which were sold back in Japan by subscription, while studying oil-painting and earning his living partly by wood-engraving. Returning via Moscow, his latent interest in children's art and the cultural lives of farmers was aroused there and he visited Tolstoy's widow. In 1918 he was leader of the group which founded the Creative Print Association and thereafter became moral leader of the 'Sosaku Hanga' movement. From 1919 until his death he devoted himself first to children's art, helping found the Japan Children's Free Painting Society in that year and encouraging children to learn woodblock printing; and then to the Farmers' Art Foundation, founded in 1920, teaching for many years at an idealistic farmers' art and craft school in Kangawa village. Here he continued to promote woodblock printing as a 'people's art' until his return to Tokyo in 1935. After 1920 Yamamoto produced few prints. His total production of woodblock prints was small but their influence was very considerable, and his intellectual breadth of interests and dynamic energy were a major factor in the ultimate success of the 'Sosaku Hanga' movement after the Pacific War.


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