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Munakata, Shiko (1903-1975)

Rāhula, Master of the Esoteric

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Munakata, Shiko (1903-1975)
Rāhula, Master of the Esoteric
Ten Great Disciples of Buddha
Woodblock Print
Printed 1960
42" x 15.25"
Shiko Munakata
Very good impression and state


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Shiko Munakata
From an important private collection

About the art

THIS WORK IS ONLY OFFERED AS A SET IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE NINE OTHER WORKS FROM THE SERIES THE TEN DISCIPLES OF BUDDHA (JPR1-63115, JPR1-63122, JPR1-63125, JPR1-63127, JPR1-63117, JPR1-63116, JPR1-63119, JPR1-63126, JPR1-63123, JPR1-63121, JPR1-63114) Munakata was said to have favored this disciple. Rahula was the only son of Buddha. In 1939, Munakata began work on his renowned series, the Ten Great Disciples of Buddha. Carved from katsura wood, each disciple measured over three feet tall. Rendering sharp, graphic lines and embracing white space, Munakata traded hand coloring for a boldly graphic style, as contemporary as it was ancient. He did not seek to replicate the personas of the specific disciples; instead, he sought to create distinct personalities,each distinguished with the dignity he admired in Buddhist sculpture. Although it is thought that Munakata carved the entire series without any preliminary sketches, in reality, he worked on the disciples for over a year and a half. During this time, he sought inspiration and artistic mindfulness before carving the blocks with his characteristic fervor. He worked to the very edge of each block, such that toes and heads brush the edge of the block. Though the names of the disciples were in mind as he worked, he waited to assign identities until all prints were complete. Composed of ten disciples and two bodhisattvas, this twelve print series stirred international praise, winning First Prize in printmaking at the annual print exhibition in Lugano, Switzerland in 1952, the 1955 Sao Paulo Biennial, as well as the 1956 Venice Biennale. While personal victories, this acclaim carried great national significance as well. Though designed in 1939, Munakata printed impressions throughout his life, each time he felt the world needed it.

About the artist

Born in Aomori prefecture, Shiko Munakata is a woodblock print artist best known for his black and white prints and his expressive, sketch-like lines. A self-taught artist, he began his career in oil painting, organizing the Seikokai (Blue Light Group) and exhibiting at Hakujitsukai, Bunten and Teiten. Shiko Munakata changed course in 1926 upon seeing a woodblock print by Sumio Kawakami. After brief instruction from Un’ichi Hiratsuka in 1928, Munakata became an active woodblock print artist in the printmaking community: he belonged to both Kokugakai (1932-1953) and Nihon Hanga Kyokai (1932-1938), and contributed to many Sosaku Hanga publications. Around 1936, he garnered the support of Soetsu Yamagai and other leaders of the folk art movement. Munakata’s work began to heavily feature Buddhist imagery the following year. During the bombing of Tokyo in 1945, he escaped to Toyama prefecture. He continued printmaking and received first prize in international exhibitions held in Lugano (1952), Sao Paulo (1955) and Venice (1956). Visiting the United States in 1959, Munakata spent a year exhibiting his work throughout the country. Horinji Temple in Kyoto bestowed him with the honorary rank of “Hokkyo” upon his return to Japan. In 1962, he received the rank of “Hogan” from Nisseki Temple in Toyama prefecture. Munakata’s accolades continued through the end of the decade, including the Medal of Honor (1963), the Asahi Shimbun culture prize (1965), and the Order of Cultural Merit (1970).

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