Sekino Jun'ichirô ( 1914–1988) was the leading Japanese figurative printmaker to emerge from the circle of Onchi Kôshirô (1891–1955). Highly skilled in drawing and composition, Sekino assimilated traditional and modern art from Japan, Europe, and the United States in his portraiture, still life, and landscapes. A prolific artist, he worked for nearly six decades, producing well over a thousand prints, drawings, watercolors, and oil paintings. His best works, especially those around the mid-twentieth century, stand out as notable achievements in modern Japanese printmaking.1
Sekino was also a prolific book illustrator and designer, following a model established by his mentor Onchi who produced 1,000 to 2,000 book, magazine, and sheet-music designs. We don't, at the moment, have a reliable count for all of Sekino's book projects, but he must have had a hand in many hundreds, and possibly more than 1,000 books, ranging from providing a single illustration for a volume of poetry to creating many images and texts for his own books, for which he designed all the contents from cover to cover. These works were often inventive in style and represent a substantial commitment to the art of the Japanese book in the twentieth century.
For more about this artist, see Sekino Jun'ichirô Biography.
Sekino was born in the third year of the Taishô period (1912-1926), hence the title of tbe present book, Taishô no shônen (Taishô Boy: 大正の少年). This was a private publication in a limited edition of 150 distributed in 1972, There are 34 text pages plus twelve self-carved and self-printed monochrome (sumi-ink) woodblock prints on handmade Japanese paper. The book jacket and endpapers are also woodblock printed. A two-color woodblock print that includes the book title is pasted to the front cover of the book visible beneath the jacket. Fine string binding in the style called fukurô toji ("bag binding," "stitched binding," or "pouch binding": 袋綴じ), a standard side-stitched book format that was the most common binding used for Edo-period ehon (woodblock-printed illustrated books: 絵本). There is also decorative paper with a title-label on the case. Each of the 150 copies was brush signed by Sekino. Our copy is in fine a condition, being virtually spotless and without any wear and tear.
The text is autobiographical, recounting his days as a young boy in Aomori and the time when he longed to follow a creative path by becoming an artist. He knew Munakata Shikô in Aomori and was fascinated by that memorable artist's creative energy. Around 1931, while still a teenager, he found his first important teacher, Kon Junzô (今純三), from whom he learned intaglio printmaking. After his family business failed, Sekino moved to Tokyo, where he met Onchi Kôshirô, a circumstance that had a profound impact on his life and work as an artist. Other figures are mentioned, including those whom he left behind in Aomori, and new friends and fellow artists in Tokyo.
A copy of Taishô no shônen was included in the Sekino 100 birth-year anniversary exhibition at the Aomori Museum of Art from October 4 to November 24, 2014, illustrated in their important exhibition catalog as #B-49 on p. 160 (see Aomori ref. below).
- Aomori Museum of Art (Aomori Kenritsu Bijutsukan: 青森県立美術館), ed. Akira Kanno (担当菅野晶): Sekino Jun'ichirô ten: Seitan hyakkunen (Exhibition of Sekino Jun'ichirô: 100th Anniversary of His Birth": 関野準一郎展 ・ 生誕百年), Oct. 4 to Nov. 24, 2014 (exhibition catalog, 231 pp.).
- Fiorillo, John, "The art of Sekino Jun’ichirô: Expressive realism and geometric formalism," in: Andon, 2017, no. 104, p. 73.
- Smith, Lawrence. Japanese Prints during the Allied Occupation 1945-1952 — Onchi Kôshirô, Ernst Hacker and the First Thursday Society (London: British Museum, 2002), pp. 62 and 89, no. 48.
- Amanda Zehnder: Modern Japanese Prints — The Twentieth Century (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Museum of Art, 2009), p. 161.