Hashimoto Okiie () was born in Tottori Prefecture. He graduated from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, Ueno in 1924, where he studied art education and Western-style oil painting (yôga: 洋画). From 1924-55, he worked as a middle-school teacher, later accepting an appointment as an assistant principal of the Tokyo First Women's High School. During that period he thought of himself as a "Sunday printmaker." He also became interested in prints around 1932 and began printmaking in 1936 when he took a three-day short course taught by Hiratsuka Un’ichi (平塚運一), his only formal training in making woodcuts. Afterward, they became good friends and Hashimoto became a member of Hiratsuka's circle of artists, Yoyogi-ha (代々木派). He was also part of Onchi Kôshirô's First Thursday Society (Ichimokukai: 一木会), contributing a landscape design (Yaene on Hachijô Island) to that group's sixth and final portfolio, Ichimokushû (First Thursday Collection: 一木集), in 1950.
Hashimoto first exhibited at the Japanese Print Association (Nihon Hanga Kyôkai) show in 1937, and joined that group in 1940. Hashimoto frequently depicted Japanese gardens and castles (including several albums featuring views of castles issued from the 1940s into the 1960s); he also produced floral and figure subjects. Many of his designs are characterized by multiple vantage points, and his partly abstracted sand gardens often contrast an atmosphere of contemplation with somewhat severe or repeated geometrical forms used to construct the compositions. Subtle modulations also contribute toward a sophisticated surface in his compositions. In other examples, the use of intense red, orange, yellow, and green colors animate the designs, vividly distinguishing the scenes from the more quiet aspects of his oeuvre.
Hashimoto enjoyed working in oils, but he preferred printmaking. He told Oliver Statler (see ref. below) that, "I feel I can get more expression from the carving tool than I ever can from the brush. The brush goes along too easily. I like the resistence that the block gives me. And don't be misled, the whole process of making prints is hard work — it's hard but satisfying." He also mentioned that, "I like to sketch on the spot, and I use the line of traditional Japanese painting because I I think it has something in common with the line of prints." In his printing, Hashimoto often used plywood faced with shina; less frequently, other woods included sakura (cherry: 桜 or 櫻) and katsura (Judas tree, Cercidiphyllum japonicum: 桂). Stencils cut from stiff waterproof paper (or mimeographed) have also proved useful on occasion when applying oil pigment with a roller. Colorants included Japanese vegetable pigments (including ai-gami, or dayflower blue: 藍紙), gofun (shell powder or shell white, a calcium carbonate: 胡粉), tube water colors, and sumi (carbon black, a mixture of soot, water, and glue: 墨 or 墨). His papers included torinoko-gami (鳥の子紙).
Sidenote: The first sôsaku hanga print was made by Yamamoto Kanae (1882-1946) from a single block carved on both sides. Known as Gyofu ("Fisherman": 漁夫), the seminal woodcut was published in Ishii Hakutei's (石井柏亭 1882-1958) art and literary magazine Myôjô (Morning Star: 明星) in 1904. It was reprinted in a memorial edition of 40 by Hashimoto Okiie in 1960 upon the request of Ishii Tsuruzô (1887-1983), Hakutei's younger brother, who had rediscovered Yamamoto's block, and the modern print connoisseur and advocate Oliver Statler (1915-2002).
One of the motifs explored by Hashimoto was the effect of dappled sunlight on the perception of forms. Here, an intense yellow pigment dominates the upper eighty percent of the composition, illuminating the ground with irregular patches of bright sunlight that has broken through the canopy of branches above. Even the shadows bleed with speckled yellow. Fond of contrast and strong juxtapositions, Hashimoto placed a more neutral area of raked sand and medium-value gray shadows in the lower part of the design. The flattened and nearly frontal view of the sand and shadows offsets the more three-dimensional aspect of the tree and its roots. Looking at this scene, one can feel the heat of the sun radiating in the traditional Japanese garden. These effects are heightened by the imposingly large format used by Hashimoto.
Works by Hashimoto Okiie are in many institutional collections, including the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria; Art Institute of Chicago; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburg; Cincinnati Art Museum; Cleveland Museum of Art; Dallas Museum of Art; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Harvard Art Museums; Honolulu Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; and Philadelphia Museum of Art.
- Donald Jenkins, Images of a Changing World: Japanese Prints of the Twentieth Century. Portland Art Museum, 1983, p. 102.
- Helen Merrit, Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Early Years, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1990, pp. 250-251.
- Lawrence Smith, Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989. London: British Museum Press, 1994, p. 46.
- Kristin Spangenberg, Innovation and Tradition: Twentieth-Century Japanese Prints from the Howard and Caroline Porter Collection., pp. 17, 24, and 51.
- Oliver Statler, Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn. Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1956, pp. 133-136, 144, and 200.