Asano Takeji 浅野竹二 (1900-1999) was born in Kyoto and graduated from the Kyoto City School of Fine Arts and Crafts in 1919 and the Kyoto City Specialist School of Painting in 1923. He studied Western oil painting and later Japanese-style painting with Bakusen Tsuchida (1887-1936). After becoming interesed in woodblock printing through a course at Gasendo in Kyoto given by Hiratsuka Un'ichi (1895-1997), Asano produced both shin hanga ("new prints," i.e., neo-ukiyo-e: 新版画) and sôsaku hanga ("creative prints," i.e., self-carved and self-printed: 創作版画). He was an exceptionally skilled block cutter, and taught both carving and printing until the age of 97. Asano participated in the formation of the Kyoto Sôsaku Hanga Kyôkai (Kyoto Creative Print Society) in 1929. Besides the series Shin Osaka fukei ("New views of Osaka"), other examples included a self-carved, self-printed series of nine prints titled Kinki meisho fûkei ("Famous views in the Kyoto-Osaka area"). Beginning in the 1950s he designed a large number of shin hanga prints for the Unsodo Publishing company. According to one of his disciples, Fumio Machida, Asano told his students, "Don’t complicate your drawing. Eliminate all unnecessary things but leave the essence."* Asano's personal archive of sketchbooks, printmaking tools, carved blocks, and prints are now in the collection of Kyoto Seika University.
There are eight known images in the series Shin Osaka fukei no uchi (Series of new views of Osaka: 新大坂風景之内). Asano's depiction of the activity near the "mouth of the river" or port entrance provides a vivid snapshot of the modern commercial city of Osaka in the early 1930s. After decades of industrial development throughout urban Japan, Osaka harbor was a bustle of activity, with factories spewing smoke, cargo boats moored in their docks, steel cranes poised to lift oversized cargo to the shore, small boats navigating up and down the river — all seen under the golden glow of a setting sun. The atmospheric locale is presented below a canopy of clouds whose forms echo the rippling waves below. All told, this is one of Asano's finest and most desirable scenes, a worthy representative of his undervalued pre-WWII oeuvre.
For other designs from this series, see ASA01 and ASA03.
References: *KIWA News No. 3, November 2000, Kyoto International Woodprint Association, p. 6.