review: Yoshida Hiroshi Exhibition at the Kurume City Art Museum

A short description from Fukuoka Now:

“Yoshida Hiroshi (1876~1950) spent his time wandering the mountains and fields of Japan in search of natural beauty to paint. His friends called him ‘the demon of painting’ because of his uncompromising attitude as an artist. This exhibition celebrates the 140th anniversary of his birth and will showcase his main body of work which consists of watercolors, oil paintings, and prints. Two different groups of paintings will be displayed over the course of the exhibition. The first set will be shown from 2/4 ~ 2/26 and the second set from 2/28 ~ 3/20. This is the first time his work will be displayed in his hometown of Kurume.”

Before I went to this exhibit I had never heard of Yoshida Hiroshi, despite the fact that he is regarded as one of the greatest artists of the shin-hanga style. For those who don’t know, shin-hanga is often called “neo-ukiyo-e” because of how it retains ukiyo-e tradition in terms of subject matter while being inspired by Western realism. The use of naturalistic light, colored lines, soft colors, 3-dimensionality, and deep space in shin-hanga are artistic innovations that break with the ukiyo-e tradition.

The first phase of his exhibition was massive and had a variety of different works by him, but my favorites by far were definitely his prints.

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I really fell in love with the way he used the same blocks to create totally different lighting and moods as well. He thoroughly explored this in his series of boats.

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He was also an incredibly well-traveled artist. Some of the places he visited and documented were the National Parks in America, famous attractions in Italy, Greece, Egypt, and India among many others.

Yoshida’s work really spoke to me. The wide open spaces of color in contrast with highly detailed and busy linework, the sense of light, shadow, and reflection, and especially his gorgeous color palettes — it all had me swooning. As a sort of traveler, hiker, and adventurer myself these days, his spirit of discovery and exploration and his desire to capture the beautiful moments he experienced while traveling and in nature is incredibly relevant and inspiring to me.

I am really excited to go to this show again and see the second phase of this exhibition.

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