Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ito, Shinsui

Beauty in the snow
ink and color on silk
size unknown
Yamatane Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan

Shinsui Ito (1898 – 1972), was a Nihonga (Japanese Painting) painter and Ukiyo-E woodblock print artist in Taisho and Showa period Japan. He was born in Fukagawa, Tokyo and was one of the great names of the shin-hanga (modern wood block print) art movement, which revitalized the traditional art after it began to decline with the advent of photography in the early 20th century. It can be said that he was the last person who inherited the tradition of Ukiyo-e Edo. In the later years of his life, he concentrated on painting. He was honored with the Order of the Rising Sun and his art work had been declared an "Intangible National Treasure" by a government commission.

Shinsui was a typical representative of the shin-hanga art movement. He only designed the prints - either as drawing sketches, or watercolors or paintings. Skillful carvers and printers then carved the woodblocks - one for each color - and printed the sheets from these blocks. The skill of these people was maybe even more important for the success of an artist's work than the design. Although traditional Japanese printmaking had practically come to a standstill at the beginning of the twentieth century, the quality of the craftsmanship of carvers and printers had reached a level never seen before during the 18th or 19th century.