Yoshida Hiroshi prints at the Ashmolean

yoshida window in fatehpur sikri
Yoshida Hiroshi (1876-1950) was a leading figure in Japan’s Shin Hanga (New Print) movement, seeking to revive traditional ukiyo-e printing by combining Japanese techniques with Western elements. From November 1930, he spent four months travelling in India and South East Asia. Following his return, he produced 32 woodblock prints of scenes from his trip.

This magical exhibition presents a selection of images from Indian sites, mainly architecture and landscapes. There is a strong emphasis on the technical brilliance of Yoshida's printmaking.  For instance, A Window in Fatehpur Sikri show a sepia-toned interior with three figures sitting near a carved lattice window. For this one scene, Yoshida used five woodblocks for the lattice; four nezumi-ban (grey blocks) to deepen the shadow tones; and four wari-ban (split blocks with tapered ends) for the reflections on the marble floor.

His landscape prints are equally captivating. In the Kinchinjanga series, he follows Hokusai and Hiroshige in presenting views of a mountain in different conditions – morning, afternoon and evening. He uses the same set of woodblocks for each print but varies the image with different colours and techniques, a process called betsu-zuri (separate printing). The result is a dream-like display of colour and light effects.

Yoshida Hiroshi: A Japanese Artist in India
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
9 June to 13 September 2015

Above: Yoshida Hiroshi, A Window in Fatehpur Sikri, 1931. Woodblock print; ink and colour on paper. Height 40.1cm; width 27.6cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Image at http://www.mfa.org/collections. [Ashmolean image not online at time of writing.]

Below: Yoshida Hiroshi, Kinchinjanga - Afternoon, 1931. Woodblock print; ink and colour on paper. Height 27.6cm; width 39.8cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Image at http://www.mfa.org/collections. [Ashmolean image not online at time of writing.]

yoshida kinchinjanga