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"Hiratsuka: Modern Master"
2001-08-04 until 2001-09-16
Art Institute of Chicago
Hiratsuka Un’ichi (1895–1997) was among the first group of
20th-century woodcut artists to break away from the tradition to which the art form
was still firmly rooted. Influenced by progressive Japanese painters who had adopted
watercolor and oil painting techniques during their time abroad, Hiratsuka embraced
the Western technique of carving directly into the woodblock. Although he earned
acclaim for his early color prints, his continued experimentation with wood-engraving
techniques led him toward black-and-white compositions.
Hiratsuka was part of a printmaking revival in Japan known as the Creative Print
Movement. Under the slogan “self-designed, self-printed,” these artists sought to
reclaim control from publishers over the production of prints. Whereas some of the
proponents adapted German Expressionist or French pre-Cubist styles, Hiratsuka
delved into the history of Japanese woodblock prints, researching early Buddhist
imagery and traveling to historical sites in Korea and China. Hiratsuka’s prints,
teachings, and handbooks on printmaking influenced a number of artists, including
the celebrated Munakata Shiko.
Hiratsuka: Modern Master presents 120 of the artist’s late woodblock prints from the collection of the Art Institute and that of
the family of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Van Zelst. The exhibition also pays tribute to the artist’s legacy in the United States, where
he eventually moved. It includes a number of works with American subjects in addition to his more familiar motifs: quiet
landscapes, flowers and birds, buildings and bridges, and nudes. The exhibition will be shown in two installments, thefirst on
view June 16 through July 29, the second August 4 through September 16.