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  • Thumbnail for Clock Tower on Street Corner of Washington D.C.
    Clock Tower on Street Corner of Washington D.C. by Hiratsuka Un'ichi (1895-1997)

    Woodblock print; ink on paper, framed under glass. Hiratsuka, one of the preeminent figures in the sosaku hanga movement, was born in Matsue, Honshû. In 1913 he met the artist Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958), a western-style painter and printmaker who had published the first sosaku hanga print (Yamamoto Kanae's "Fisherman") in the magazine Myôjô in 1904. Ishii admired Hiratsuka's painting, and in 1915 the younger artist moved to Tokyo to continue his study with Ishii, who urged him to learn block carving and printing. He did so for about six months with Igami Bonkotsu (1875-1933), becoming the best-trained block carver in the sosaku hanga movement. Hiratsuka exhibited his first prints in 1916 at an exhibition of the independent Nika-kai ("Second Division Society"), and by the 1920s his reputation in the world of printmaking was considerable. It is likely that Hiratsuka had some influence upon nearly every important sosaku hanga artist. He taught sessions on woodblock printing in various parts of Japan, inspiring, among many students, the great Munakata Shiko, who learned to use the v-shaped chisel from Hiratsuka when they first met in 1928. Between 1935 and 1944 Hiratsuka taught the first blockprinting course at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (Kitaoka Fumio and Hashimoto Oike were among his students). In 1948 he established his own school in Tokyo. He moved to Washington D.C. in 1962, but ultimately returned to Japan in 1994. Hiratsuka was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government in 1970, and in 1991, the Hiratsuka Un'ichi Print Museum was opened in Suzaka, Nagano Prefecture.