Episode 421 – In the Eye of the Beholder

Today, we’re discussing the evolution of a unique form of modern Japanese art: shin hanga, or new woodblocks, which attempted to combine Western painting techniques with woodblock printing. They’re not as well remembered as old ukiyo-e prints, but say something very interesting about the tension between modernity and tradition in 20th century Japan!


Okamoto, Hiromi and Henry D. Smith II. “Ukiyo-e for Modern Japan: The Legacy of Watanabe Shozaburo.” in The New Wave: Twentieth-century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection.

A basic introduction to the woodblock printing process is described here.

A whole series of sources on the relationship between impressionists, Japonisme, and woodblock prints: Source 1, 2, 3, 4

Images and Media

Kawase Hasui’s Shiba Zojoji.
Yoshida Hiroshi’s Hikaru umi
Watanabe actually made some of his own shin hanga; this piece, Lake Kawaguchi, is from 1937.
Watanabe Shozaburo’s print shop in the early 20th century.
The Watanabe print shop is still in operation today!

2 thoughts on “Episode 421 – In the Eye of the Beholder”

  1. Awesome episode on a really cool topic! I wasn’t aware of the distinction between shin hanga and ukiyo-e before now but what I now recognize to be shin hanga have been some of my favorite pieces of art for a while. Learned a bunch from this. Keep up the great work!

Comments are closed.