Tokyo in wood

Exhibit depicts Japan's capital during the early 20th century

Exhibit depicts Japan's capital during the early 20th century

July 28, 2005|By KRISTIN WILSON

Images of Japan's capital during the tumultuous years of the early 20th century will be unveiled at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts on Friday, July 29.

The museum's latest exhibit, "Tokyo: The Imperial Capital," is a traveling show of woodblock prints crafted by Japanese artist Koizumi Kishio.

The exhibit features 64 works from Kishio's original collection of 100, named "One Hundred Pictures of Great Tokyo in the Showa Era."


Kishio painted in the years following Tokyo's disastrous earthquake of 1923, known as the Great Kanto Earthquake, that killed more than 100,000 people. His works document the reconstruction of Tokyo and the creation of modern road, train and public service networks that laid the foundation for Tokyo's modern image.

The artist did not finish his portfolio of 100 images until the late 1930s so there are also themes of militarization leading the country into World War II, says Marianne Lamonaca, chief curator for the Wolfsonian-Florida International University in Miami Beach, Fla., where the collection is housed.

"What we found by examining the work is that this artist was reflecting on some of the changes that were occurring in Tokyo," she says. "It really focuses on this idea of modernization of the city."

Kishio was also part of a new artistic movement in Japan known in western art circles as the "Creative Printmaker Movement," Lamonaca says.

Kishio's prints "are very different from the Japanese prints that we have come to know. They are much more modern. They have a grainier quality to them."

Traditional Japanese printmakers operated in a guild-style system, in which artists specialized in the various components of printmaking, Lamonaca explains.

Kishio was part of an avant-garde movement - only one artist was responsible for the prints from start to finish. To complete his "One Hundred Pictures" portfolio, he carved all the wood blocks used for printing, applied the paint and made the final prints.

"The (prints) that we're showing are produced by the artist so they have a much more immediate sensibility to them," Lamonaca says.

Kishio's woodblock print exhibit is the first of its kind for the fine arts museum, says Amy Hunt, museum curator.

"It's an interesting look at Tokyo in the 1930s," Hunt says. The prints "have a modern, updated feel to them in comparison with the older works."

If you go ...

WHAT: "Tokyo: The Imperial Capital"

WHEN: Friday, July 29, through Sunday, Sept. 11

WHERE: The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, City Park, Hagerstown

COST: Free; donations requested

MORE: For more information, go to or call 301-739-5727. There will be a public reception for the new exhibit from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, July 31. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is closed Mondays.

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