A leading member of the Sosaku Hanga movement, Jun'ichiro Sekino was one of the most influential Japanese printmakers of the 20th century. From his large-scale portraiture to his modern exploration of the Tokaido Road, Sekino's expressive designs are rich in texture, achieved through layered colors and live edges. True to the spirit of the Sosaku Hanga or "creative print" movement, Sekino brought his subjects to life through his self-drawn, self-carved, and self-printed designs early in his career. As his popularity grew, he developed a studio to meet his growing international audience.
Born in Aomori prefecture in 1914, Jun'ichiro Sekino lived only a few houses away from Shiko Munakata, a pivotal artist of the Sosaku Hanga movement who was 11 years his senior. Sekino began making woodblock prints while still in middle school and his first print published in 1931 by the Sosaku Hanga Kenkyukai. This success caught the eye of Junzo Kon, who took Sekino as an unofficial student. Under Kon, Sekino studied other printing techniques such as copper plate etching, mezzotint, and lithography, as well as a range of European printmakers. In 1936, Sekino's etching "A Wharf" was accepted into the state-sponsored Teiten exhibition.
As Sekino pursued his career as a print artist, he moved to Tokyo in 1939. He continued his studies at the Etching Institute of Takeo Nishida, where he also trained in oil painting and drawing. Shortly after, he met Onchi Koshiro, a leader of the Sosaku Hanga movement and a powerful influence on Sekino's work. Sekino joined the Ichimokukai, the Nihon Hanga Kyokai in 1938 and Kokugakai in 1940. During the late 1940s and 1950s, he produced many of his intimate portraits of artists, artisans, and literary figures. His later works include landscape series such as Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road and Prints of the Narrow Road to the Deep North. In addition, he produced book illustrations throughout his career, as well as reprints of Onchi's designs. In 1950, he developed an association around the study of etching that became the Japanese Etchers' Society in 1953.
Acclaim for Sekino's work spread beyond Japan, winning particular acclaim in the United States for his woodblock prints following World World II. In 1958, the Japan-America Society brought Sekino to the United States, where he taught at Oregon State University in 1963. Upon returning to Japan, he assumed a position at Kobe University in 1965. He received the medal of the Imperial Household Agency in 1981.