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.
Nakanoshima (中之島) is a narrow sandbank in Kita-ku, Osaka city, Japan, that divides the Kyû-Yodo River into the Tosabori and Dôjima rivers. During the Edo period Nakanoshima was the heart of Osaka, where all the rice-storage warehouses were located, symbols of the city's economic strength. Today's Osaka city fathers are trying to recapture Nakanoshima's significance by placing numerous cultural institutions there, including governmental and commercial offices (e.g., the city hall of Osaka), and museums, along with Nakanoshima Park (中之島公園).
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 view of Nakanoshima Kôen geshû (Autumn moon over Nakanoshima Park: 中之島公園秋月) is an exercise in capturing atmosphere and light. Western influence is evident, particularly in the use of shadows, although the tradition of rendering modern landscapes and cityscapes with a concern for the effects of light can also be traced back to Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915). Even the style of providing titles in the lower margin, read right to left, can be found in the earlier artist's works. Reflections, shadows, silhouettes, and natural and artificial illumination all play a role in this lyrical view of Nakanoshima Park. This is one of Asano's most desirable scenes, a fine example of his undervalued pre-WWII oeuvre.
For other designs from this series, see ASA02 and ASA03.
References: *KIWA News No. 3, November 2000, Kyoto International Woodprint Association, p. 6.