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September 22, 2003

The art of Yoshida Hiroshi, 1931
Posted by Teresa at 11:23 AM *

These are from the online collection of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian.

Yoshida Hiroshi (1876-1950) was a Japanese artist who picked up and assimilated a lot of Western influences while still working within the Japanese printmaking tradition. In the decade before WWII he traveled in the Far East, making pictures of non-Japanese subjects. They’re beautiful. I’ve linked to the smaller versions of the pictures so you can see the commentary, but you should click through to see the larger versions of the pictures. Some of them required as many as 81 impressions to get the effects he wanted.

Kanchenjunga - Morning.
Kanchenjunga - Noon.
Kanchenjunga - Afternoon.
The Golden Pagoda in Rangoon.
Victoria Memorial, Calcutta.
Ghat in Varanasi (Benares).
Taj Mahal No. 1.
Taj Mahal - Night.
A Window in Fatehpur Sikri.
Jami Masjid, Delhi.
The Golden Temple at Amritsar.
Ajmer Gate, Jaipur.
High Gate at Ajmer.
Udaipur Palace.
Cave Temple at Ajanta.
Great Temple in Madura.
Morning at Darjeeling.
Moonlight of Taj Mahal No. 4.
Shalimar Garden, Lahore.
A Gate to the Stupa of Sanchi.
Island Palaces in Udaipur.
Snake Charmers.
Night in Taj Mahal No. 6.
Caravan from Afghanistan.
Caravan from Afghanistan - Night.
Outskirts of a Village.
No. 3 Cave Temple in Ellora.
Morning Mist in Taj Mahal No. 5.

Addendum: Yoshida Hiroshi does Mt. Fuji. Here’s the print in high resolution, 1:1 scale.

Comments on The art of Yoshida Hiroshi, 1931:
#1 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 12:52 PM:

You know, we're going to be in DC the end of October. I'm staying over after WFC to do some museums....


#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 01:06 PM:

How far is the hotel from the Smithsonian?

#3 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 01:16 PM:

These are sublime, Teresa. Thank you very much.

#4 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 01:23 PM:

I am already inquiring if there are reproductions available, but one idea occured to me. I am wondering about a screen saver with the three prints of Kanchenjunga (all made with the same blocks - fascinating), "Morning" dissolving into "Noon" then dissolving into "Afternoon", which would then fade slowlly through deep blue to black, then start over.

Hmmmmm . . .

#5 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 03:49 PM:


These are wonderful.

I'm recycling the link for my blog.

#6 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 03:53 PM:

Makes me wish I had good scans of the prints of Lilian May Miller, an artist my grandmother represented -- daughter of the American Consul in Seoul, worked mostly in the period between WWI and WWII, accepted as the next master for a particular school of woodblock printing.... She did several seasonal or time-bound series (Lantern on a Hill, Nikko: 4 seasons; similarly Diamond Mountains). The two prints I do still have show her wonderful ability to capture nuances of color in moonlight (Moonlight, Nanzenji Temple; Festival of Lanterns, Nara).

The fascinating difference is that she seemed to go more for the traditional approach, where I can see a lot of Art Nouveau influence in these, especially the figures in the Morning Mist in Taj Mahal #5 print.

Cool stuff, and thx!


#7 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 03:59 PM:

Wow. Thanks!

#8 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 04:19 PM:

Heck, I'm going to be in DC this weekend, and we were wondering what we should do with a couple of unallocated hours.

I guess now we know. Many thanks!

#9 ::: arto ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 05:58 PM:

That's some excellent stuff, Theresa. Thanks for finding it!

Oh, and Tom: There's some Lillian May Miller stuff here. Not the best scans, of course, but a nice introduction nonetheless.

#10 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 06:19 PM:

Oddly enough, The Old Print Shop are the folks I sold off a large part of the collection to....

Not quite synchronicity, but an odd connection.


#11 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 07:55 PM:

How far is the hotel from the Smithsonian?

Well, it depends on what part of the Smithsonian you're talking about. After consulting web pages for addresses and MapQuest for a map, I come to the conclusion in is a longish walk, maybe a mile, or a short cab ride from the WFC hotel to the Sackler/Freer galleries. The hotel is 400 NW and the galleries are 1200SW


#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 08:17 PM:

Well, cool. I'm going to look up their hours that weekend.

#13 ::: Philip Akin ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 02:29 PM:

Thanks for posting these works. I own a piece of Yoshida H. called the Return of the Fishing Fleet and the level of overprinting gives a truly deep, rich, textured light quality so that it seems to glow with an inner light. His son Toshi was also a talented printmaker but did not reach the level of his father...IMHO.

#14 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 02:58 PM:

His style reminded me a bit of that of Nicholas Roerich, whom I learned of from H.P. Lovecraft, of all people. (In At The Mountains Of Madness.)

#15 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 03:01 PM:

cd, I had that same thought yesterday when I ran across that site and looked at the pictures of the Himalaya. The style and media are different, but both artists seemed to be "seeing" the same thing when looking at Kanchenjunga.

#16 ::: daniel ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 04:00 PM:

Lovely. Reminded me of Masami Teraoka, whose work is decidedly different except in the sense of using japanese woodblock technique and style to modern effect.

#17 ::: Neil Rest ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2003, 08:45 PM:

Thank you, Teresa.

It's an odd sensation to see renderings which are simultaneously artistic and so lifelike.

Yup, that's precisely the Jama Masjid; that's Varanasi, all right.

#18 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 12:22 PM:


This moved me to check on Amazon and see if there was a collection of his woodblock prints.

Yes, but the $75 book is currently unavailable, and the used copy offered costs $575.

#19 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 03:59 PM:

And another great reason not to use Amazon --

Checking Bookfinder quickly, there are two books that have his name in the title, one a monograph on him -- prices start around $70. The book of all his prints starts around $225. And that's 30 seconds of checking on one used book site -- I'll bet I could get those prices down by at least 20% with some digging.

Amazon charges very inflated prices for used books, and actually just searches the same sites you or I could then tacks on a multiplier.

Check, or, and really support independent booksellers.

Getting off the horse for a moment now....


#20 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 11:26 PM:

I did a check on, Tom, but all that came up under his name was separate prints of his work. The volume of collected prints didn't come up on my search results.

I wonder why the different results?

#21 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 12:23 AM:

Tom's right. Amazon's prices are frequently way too high.

#22 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 04:44 AM:

Bruce, Bookfinder is basically a clearing house. When you enter a search there, it goes off and checks a bunch of online bookdealers to find if there's anything listed. Sometimes, those other dealers are being accessed by enough people that the search "times-out". This is why, personally, I generally go to first, directly, even though Bookfinder nominally searches them. If I'm not seeing what I want, or if ABE only shows a few copies, I look at Bookfinder. I don't check Alibris for the same reason I don't check Amazon -- they tend to mark up copies that other systems are selling.

Of course, if you're willing to wait until things come up on eBay, you'll likely get a much cheaper price....


#23 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 01:41 PM:

I viewed these late and they are indeed wonderful97thanks for the links. One thing I wonder about: there is a large number of Buddhist shrines. Anyone know if Yoshida Hiroshi was making a pilgrimage?

#24 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2003, 03:22 PM:

Skewer me if you must, but I found Hiroshi's art to be too antiseptic and utilitarian. It resembled more the cut-rate artwork that someone might produce for a textbook in order to keep the costs down. Then again, I didn't appreciate Andy Warhol, either.

#25 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2003, 09:33 AM:

Well, I don't have a skewer handy, but I'm going to have to disagree with Dave.

I found the Kanchenjunga and Fuji prints especially breathtaking.

#26 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2003, 12:06 AM:

Dave: I don't find it antiseptic even in this format, and I've grown accustomed to the way even good reproductions don't catch the experience (I wasn't a fan of Renoir until I saw a few in person....). But no, I felt that good old chest-expanding catch-breath at these.

#27 ::: Allen Baum ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2003, 12:50 PM:

I don't usually have time to browse the net, but I was just visiting Nancy & Elric, and your blog popped up with the prominent Yoshida topic.

You have good taste (this is a euphemism for taste that matches my own, of course).

Yoshida is one of Donya's and my favorite artists, & we have a (small) wall full of them - though almost all are prints by his son, Toshi, except for Taj Mahal #4.

A Yoshida Toshi print that I saw at a friend's parent's house is directly the cause of our interest in Japan, and our visits there. It depicted a small but elaborate shrine flanked by two enormous dead-straight trees in a forest. I knew these weren't redwoods, and I decided that whereever that was, I wanted to go there.

So, we ended up in Nikko, Japan, home of the original 3 wise monkeys. It was worth it, and
we've returned there many times since.

There are several books about the Yoshida's - mostly Hiroshi, but also son Toshi and grandson (whose name I can't recall). There is also a book on the entire family. The women in the family were artists as well, and accompished ones.

If you like Yoshida and his style, there are other artists that I think you should look into, primarily Hasui; it may be easier to find information on him than on Yoshida. I can supply details on the Yoshida and Hasui books I have if you're interested.

There is a little Japanese antique place in Palo Alto that is a dealer in Yoshida prints, if you're ever in our area, though you'd probably have little problem finding them an Ronin in NYC.

Also, the museum I am aware of with the largest collection of Hasui, and perhaps Yoshida, is the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

#28 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2003, 06:05 PM:

It should be noted—because I was there yesterday, and believe me I checked—that there are currently no works by Yoshida Hiroshi on display at the Freer or Sackler Galleries. Furthermore, their gift shops are totally sold out of any and all representations of his stuff.

So that was disappointing. On the other hand, the Cambodian Buddhist pieces on display in the Sackler were sublime. I could have stood there all day. And this lovely Romanesque Buddha head from Pakistan...mmm. Amazing.

Thanks to TNH for putting this quest in my head in the first place: though we did not achieve the Grail, we had fun trying.

#29 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 09:01 AM:

Allen, you lucky thing! Thank you for the pointers and warnings. I don't know whether I have good taste in art -- I love Caravaggio and Hokusai and Kandinsky, just like everybody else -- but Yoshida Hiroshi astonished me. Where had this guy been? Why hadn't I heard of him before? I could tell from even the small online versions that there were extraordinary things going on in his prints. FInding that high-res 1:1 image of his Mt. Fuji print (now, alas, gone from its site) confirmed it.

So there's a whole clan of them? I have some happy catching-up to do. I'd already started to find prints by Hasui while hunting for YH's work, and you're right: I like it quite a lot.

What's Ronin? And what kind of trees do they have at the Nikko shrine?

Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Check. I'll let Boskone programming know that I'm going to be off on an expedition during part of the convention.

Andrew, I'm glad you had such a good time at the Freer and Sackler galleries. I still wish I could see those prints in person.

Dave, I believe I know the kind of art you're talking about -- though it hasn't been cheaper to reproduce than color photography since your granny's day.

When reduced in size and stripped of its fine resolution, Yoshida Hiroshi's work does somewhat resemble that stuff. I'll argue that his line, compositions, and color choices are much superior to it, even in these online postage-stamp versions. But if you keep an eye on the Freer and Sackler galleries' comments about how many impressions he used per print, it becomes evident that his finished prints were nothing like the flattish color printing you have in mind.

#30 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2003, 12:31 PM:

I don't ever trust not liking an artist's work until I've seen it in the flesh. It only took one visit to the contemporary wing of the Art Institute of Chicago to convince me of that rule.

#31 ::: Allen Baum ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 09:06 PM:

I thought I replied to this ages ago, but something burped somewhere and it got lost, so this may be a bit stale.

Briefly: Ronin is a gallery in NYC that specializes in Japanese woodblock prints. Look for their catalog on the web.

The trees in Nikko are Japanese cedar, or cryptomeria. Try searching for prints with that in the title, and you'll find some amazing prints.

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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