Onchi Kôshirô (恩地孝四郎 1891-1955) was the preeminent figure of the sôsaku hanga (creative print: 創作版画) movement. Onchi used a varied and sophisticated approach to design, exploring figurative, abstract, and symbolic imagery through traditional and experimental techniques, both Japanese and Western. He was an excellent draftsman in the realistic manner, while his explorations into abstract composition stand as seminal in the development of sôsaku hanga. The printmaker Yamaguchi Gen once said, "Onchi was a vital artist ... he had the inspiration and passion of a great artist. He was the embodiment of modern hanga in Japan and our ambassador to the rest of the world. He was heart and mind....". Perhaps more than anyone else, it was Onchi who embodied the principle of self-carving and self-printing as essential to the sôsaku hanga artist. Even so, he contributed to various projects for which his self-carved images were printed by others to be included in themed print series, as is the case with our example.
The series Shin Tokyo hyakkei (100 views of new Tokyo: 新東京百景) was published on a subscription basis by the Takujô-sha ("On the Table Group") through Nakajima Jûtarô of the Sôsaku Hanga Kurabu (Sôsaku Hanga Club, active c. 1917 until World War II). All the artists represented in the series were members of Nihon Sôsaku Hanga Kyôkai (Japan Creative Print Association,日本創作版画協会 est. 1918) as well as founding members of Nihon Hanga Kyôkai (Japan Print Association, 日本版画協会 est. 1931): Fujimori Shizuo (藤森静雄; 1891-1943), Fukazawa Sakuichi (深沢索一; 1896-1947), Henmi Takashi (逸見享; 1895-1944), Hiratsuka Un'ichi (平塚運一; 1895-1997), Kawakami Sumio (川上澄生; 1895-1972), Maekawa Senpan (前川千帆; 1885-1977), Onchi Kôshirô (恩地孝四郎; 1891-1955), Shimozawa Kihachirô (下澤木鉢郎; 1901-1984), and Suwa Kaneori (諏訪兼紀; 1897-1932).
Hibiya Kôen (Hibiya Park: 日比谷公園) is located in Chiyoda City, Tokyo. Historically, the land belonged to the Môri clan and Nabeshima clan during the Edo period, and was used for army maneuvers during the Meiji period. It was converted to a park and opened to the public on June 1, 1903. It includes a lake, wisteria grove, and the Shisei Kaikan (市政会館), a large, multi-story red-brick building with a clock tower built in the Gothic style in 1929 that housed various wire services. The park is also well known for its open-air concert venue, the Hibiya yagai ongaku-dô (Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall: 日比谷野外音楽堂), established in 1923.
Onchi contributed 13 designs to Shin Tokyo hyakkei (100 views of new Tokyo: 新東京百景). In the present example, which is titled in the right margin (Hibiya Ongaku-dô: 日比谷音楽堂), Onchi gives us a view from within the audience, looking out toward a cluster of musicians on stage at the Hibiya open-air concert hall. The contrast between the yellow light under the proscenium and the dark-blue shadowy audience is experimental in perspective and feeling. Onchi was interested more in the emotional experience of hearing music in the park than in mere mimetic reporting of the event.
Another impression of the Yoneda printing is in the British Museum (Reg. #1988,0315,0.33).
- Helen Merritt & Nanako Yamada, Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints 1900-1975. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992, pp. 267-272.
- Iwabe Sadao (ed.), Prints of Onchi Kôshirô [Onchi Kôshirô hangashû], Keishosha (形象社) Ltd., 1975, no. 194
- Helen Merritt, Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Early Years. Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1990, pp. 276-78