Although widely traveled and knowledgeable of Western aesthetics, Hiroshi Yoshida maintained an allegiance to traditional Japanese techniques and traditions. He was attracted by the calmer moments of nature, imbuing his landscape prints with coolness, inviting meditation and setting a soft, peaceful mood. While Yoshida is considered a member of the Shin Hanga or “new print” movement, after 1925, Yoshida shed the division of labor so characteristic of traditional Japanese woodblock printing. He became involved in every aspect of the process—designing the print, carving his own blocks, and printing his own work— channeling the spirit of the Sosaku Hanga, or “creative print,” movement in his distinctly Shin Hanga style.
Born in Kyushu in 1876, Yoshida studied art with his adoptive father in Kurume, Fukuoka prefecture. Around the age of twenty, Yoshida moved first to Kyoto, and then Tokyo to attend private art schools. Yoshida studied Western-style painting, winning many exhibition prizes and making several trips to the U.S., Europe and North Africa selling his watercolors and oil paintings. In 1902, he played a leading role in transforming the Meiji Fine Arts Society into the Taiheiyo-Gakai, or “Pacific Painting Association.” While a highly successful Western-style painter, after learning of the Western world’s infatuation with ukiyo-e, Yoshida began to work as a woodblock print artist in 1920. It was not long before he became one of the most prominent and popular of Japan’s color woodblock print artists.
In 1925, Yoshida started his own workshop, specializing in landscapes, both inspired by his native country and his travels abroad. In 1930, he participated in the first major Shin Hanga exhibition, hosted in Toledo, Ohio. His later prints increasingly express his passion for exploration, presenting views of Korea, China, the U.S. and Europe. Even so, the Japanese landscape remained an important subject. From mountain scenes to seascapes, shrines to castles, he revealed a natural, traditional Japan imagined beneath the bustle of modernization. While his work was temporarily interrupted by his sojourn as a war correspondent during the Pacific War in Manchuria, Yoshida produced hundreds of idyllic landscape prints over his lifetime.
Although he designed his last print in 1946, Yoshida continued to paint with oils and watercolors up until his death in 1950. His prints continue to be widely collected, are exhibited internationally, and are now housed in many major museums, including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the British Museum.
Explore Yoshida's revered views of Japan and enchanting impressions from his international travels in Hiroshi Yoshida: Worldly Visions. The exhibition can be viewed online here.