Artist Biography: Oda Kazuma (織田一麿 1882-1956), born in Tokyo, studied Western-style painting with Kawamura Kiyo-o (1852-1934) and lithography with his elder brother Oda Tôu (a painter and lithograph printer in Osaka) as well as with Kaneko Masajirô (active 1884-early 1900s). In 1903 he worked as a designer at the Koshiba lithography studio in Tokyo. Around that time, or shortly before, he probably met the Prague-born Emil Orlik (1870-1932), whose lithographic prints were an inspiration. Although Oda worked primarily as a lithographer, he was also a ukiyo-e enthusiast, publishing two books on the subject — Ukiyo-e jûhachi kô (Eighteen studies of ukiyo-e) and Ukiyo-e to sashi-e geijutsu (Ukiyo-e and the art of illustration). In 1908, he contributed lithographs to the coterie magazine Hôsun ("Square Inch"). In the 1910s he produced sets of lithographs depicting scenes from Tokyo (Tokyo fûkei hangashû, Collection of prints of scenes in Tokyo, 1916-17) and Osaka (Osaka fûkei hangashû, Collection of prints of scenes in Osaka, 1917-19). He also designed six shin-hanga-style woodblock prints for the publisher Watanabe Shôzaburô in 1924. Oda was the only lithographer included in the ground-breaking Toledo Museum of Art exhibition of 1930.
Oda participated in several art societies and was a founding member of the Nihon Sôsaku-Hanga Kyôkai (Japan Creative-Print Association: 日本創作版画協会) in 1918, when he was its only lithographer, as well as the the Yôfû Hangakai (Western-Style Print Society: 洋風版画会) in 1929-30 and the Nihon Hanga Kyôkai (Japan Print Association: 日本洋画協会) in 1931. Years later, in 1953, he opened his own private Oda Lithography Studio (Oda Sekihanjutsu Kenkyûjo). A prolific artist, the vast majority of his oeuvre was in the medium of lithography. His self-published prints were produced in small editions.
Notes on the locale and building in Oda's woodcut: Meiji Jingû Gaien (明治神宮外苑) is the outer garden of the Meiji Shinto shrine in Aoyama, the central area of Tokyo. The garden, which is famous for its avenue lined with Ginkgo trees, is the most popular locale for viewing autumn leaves in Aoyama. Each year, during the peak season (usually in mid-November), the Jingû gaien ichô matsuri (Shintô shrine garden Ginkgo festival: 神宮外苑いちょう祭り) is held from mid-November to early December. It is known for offering many regional dishes from all over Japan. The area is also the site of the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, built in 1956, which replaced the Meiji Jingû Gaien Stadium, the main venue for the 1930 Far Eastern Games. The dome building in the background of Oda's woodcut is the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery. Construction on the armored concrete building with marble facade and tiled dome began in 1918 and finished in 1925. The gallery opened to the public in 1926, thus only four years before Oda's print design. The gallery displays art related to Emperor Meiji (明治天皇, Meiji-tennô) and the Empress Dowager (皇太后, Kôtaigô) Shôken (Shôken-kôgô, 昭憲皇后). Murals are displayed to present key events in chronological order from the birth to the death of the Meiji emperor. The first 40 works are nihonga (Japanese-style paintings: 日本画), while the other 40 are yôga (Western-style painting: 洋画). Today, the gallery also offers lessons in traditional Japanese arts ranging from ikebana (flower arranging: 生け花) to tea ceremony and calligraphy.
Aside from producing his many lithographs, Oda Kazuma straddled the two main woodblock printmaking genres in Japan. Known for his self-published sôsaku hanga (creative prints: 創作版画), at the same time he occasionally participated in producing woodcuts in the shin hanga (new print; 新版画) mode by providing designs for professional carvers and printers (see ODK01).
In the present sôsaku hanga woodcut, Oda depicted three young girls playing in the outer garden of Meiji Jingû Gaien. Through the trees, the dome of the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery can be seen. There is, interestingly, something of the look and feel of lithography in the way Oda has rendered the trees and patch of Western-style cross-hatched tall-grass, as if he were experimenting by borrowing from his primary medium as he developed his woodcut. Still, there is no forsaking of native modern Japanese wood-carving techniques, such as the use of round-chisel and narrow-chisel gouging of the block along with knife cuts for details in the tree branches and leaves.
Our impression is an exceedingly rare (possibly unique) proof print on noticeably thicker paper than the already difficult-to-find published version. Some standard impressions also incorporate a bright yellow in the grassy winding path, while others have a light green. The blue used in the dress for the girl on the right in our proof is also different. Our paper is larger and overall the printing is more expressive. Moreover, it has a highly desirable pencil signature, and it is stamped in the exceptionally wide right margin with original deckle edge intact and a large square seal reading "Kazu" (かず in seal script). All told, this is a truly exceptional impression.
The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo has more than 160 lithographs and color woodcuts by Oda, although it does not include the present design in its 1993 catalog (see ref. below). Works by Oda Kazuma are also held in various museums in Europe and the U.S., including the Art Institute of Chicago; British Museum, London; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge, MA; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Toledo Museum of Art.
- Putney, Brown, Koyama, Binnie: Fresh Impressions: Early Modern Japanese Prints. Toledo Museum of Art, 2014, pp. 210-11.
- Reigle-Stephens, The new wave: Twentieth-century Japanese prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection. Leiden: Hotei, 1993, pp. 135-136.
- Tokyo kokuritsu kindai bijutsukan shozô-hin mokuroku (Catalogue of Collections [Modern Prints]: The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo,: 東京国立近代美術館所蔵品目録). 1993, nos. 425-588.
- Uhlenbeck, Newland, and de Vries: Waves of renewal: modern Japanese prints from the Nihon no hanga collection. Amsterdam: 2016, pp. 125-130.