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TOKURIKI Tomikichirô (徳力富吉郞)


kawano craneTokuriki Tomikichirô (徳力富吉郞), born in Kyoto, was a twelfth-generation member of a family long associated with official artists of the Hongan Temple (本願寺) in Kyoto. One ancester was the Kano-school painter Tokuriki Zensetsu (善雪徳力 1591-1680), whose given name Tokuriki (徳力) the young artist adopted as his art name. Tokuriki graduated from the Kyoto City School of Fine Arts and Crafts and the Kyoto City Specialist School of Painting in 1924. He also studied nihonga (Japanese-style painting: 日本画) at the private school of Tsuchida Bakusen (土田麦僊 1887-1936) and with Yamamoto Shunkyo (山元春挙 1871-1933).

Tokuriki's first introduction to woodcuts came at the age of 12 or 13 (circa 1914) with his grandfather, a painter who had taken up woodblock printing around Meiji 23 (1890). In addition, Tokuriki took some short courses on printmaking given by Hiratsuka Un'ichi (1895-1997) in Kyoto, and also studied printmaking with the carver Keikichi Hono and the printer Oiwa Tokuzô, who reputedly was a printer for Utagawa Hiroshige III (1842–1894).

From 1929 Tokuriki focused on mokuhanga (block prints: 木版画), contributing to the early print magazine Han ("Print": 版), which realized eight issues (1928-29) under the leadership of the aforementioned Hiratsuka Un'ichi and Maeda Masao (1904-1974). Tokuriki published many sets and series before World War II, and afterwards established the Matsukyû (末詳 or まつ九) Publishing Company to produce and distribute his prints. He also issued prints through its subdivision, Kôrokusha (紅録社), formed by Tokuriki, Kamei Tôbei  (亀井藤兵衛 1901-1977), and Kotozuka Eiichi (琴塚英一 1906-1979). In addition to his self-carved, self-printed hanga, he published works by other artists such as Takahashi Tasaburô (高橋太三郎 1904-1977) and the aforementioned Kotozuka Eiichi and Kamei Tôbei. A large number of Tokuriki's designs were republished in later years and it is sometimes difficult to identify the exact year of printing for a given impression. More scholarship is needed in this area.

For much of his long life Tokuriki taught many artisans and artists, some of them non-Japanese (see Daniel Kelly), and he traveled extensively, thus his influence was significant in the world of hanga. He was also a co-founder of the Kyoto magazine Taishû hanga ("Popular Prints" 大衆版画) in 1931 (two issues, August and November). The magazine, although short-lived, helped promote local support in Kyoto for sôsaku hanga (creative prints: 創作版画), something Tokuriki was dedicated to for much of his career. He supplied the cover illustration (see below) of a young Japanese woman dressed in the jazz-age flapper style, a so-called moga (moden garu, modern girl: モダンガル). For decades thereafter he continued to provide encouragement and instruction to those interested in hanga, including writing his little book on the subject in 1968 (see ref. below), and producing a long series of articles on print techniques in the magazine Hanga geijutsu ("Print Art": 版画藝術) in the 1970s.

kawano craneTokuriki is best known to Westerners through his many print designs in the shin hanga (new prints: 新版画) style for various series published by the three main Kyoto firms — Uchida, Unsôdô, and Kyoto Hanga-in. Three popular series published by Uchida Bijutsu Shoten (内田美術書店) were Tokuriki's Kyoraku Sanjudai (Thirty views of Kyoto: 京洛三十題) in 1936, Osaka Meisho (Famous scenes of Osaka: 大阪名所) in 1936, and Fuji sanjûrokukei no uchi (Thirty-six views of Mount Fuji: 富士三十六景ノ内), c. 1939-40. Tokuriki cut the blocks for some of these scenic views, but otherwise left that work to artisans employed by the publishers. However, it is his self-carved, self-printed sôsaku hanga that are more highly considered by scholars, curators, and collectors. The artist was well aware of this dichotomy, saying, "I'd rather do nothing but creative prints, but after all, I sell maybe ten of them against two hundred for a publisher-artisan print."

The image shown at the top right portrays the artist's wife as she dresses her hair. Statler dates the print to 1947 for an edition of 50, although other sources have it (probably incorreectly) as 1935. Tokuriki used a keyblock of katsura (Japanese Judas tree: 桂) and four blocks of solid (Japanese magnolia, 朴) for the color blocks in 10 printing stages. Pigments were Japanese powdered mineral pigments and sumi (carbon black: 墨 or 墨), and the paper was hôsho (mulberry paper, 奉書) from Echizen. The illustration above is from the later printing published by Tokuriki's own Matsukyû (末詳) company in an edition of 100, signed and numbered by the artist. In commenting on Tokuriki's technique, Statler writes "the best of his creative prints, like Woman Combing Her Hair... show a resolute effort to design with the knife. 'I want to break away from the brush,' says Tokuriki," referring to moving away from his Japanese-style painting (nihonga) background.

One of Tokuriki's finer meisho (famous places: 名所) designs of sites in Kyoto from a self-published, limited-edition series is the print shown below depicting Kamo[gawa] Kawara from the series Shin Heike monogatari (A new tale of the Heike: 新平家物語). It is signed Tomi (富) in the block at top right of the image, and Tomikichirô saku (Work by Tomikichirô: 富吉郞作) brushed in the lower right margin. "Self-published, from the first edition of 100" (Shôhan hyaku no uchi: 初版百ノ内) is brushed in the lower right margin. There were eight designs published for this sôsaku hanga series. Seemingly a straightforward charming view, there are graphic elements that raise this composition beyond the merely decorative. The most obvious is the single vanishing-point perspective of the landscape visible below and beyond the bridge, seen by the viewer from a low vantage point. The slanting rain is counterbalanced by the opposing diagonal of the imposing bridge. Mostly a scene rendered in grays and blues, the strong brown of the bridge and the brightly colored clothing of the pedestrians establish an effective chromatic contrast. Overall, what might have been a simple and somewhat melancholy scene is brought to life by these various compositional devices.

Tokuriki Tomikichirô: Kamo[gawa] Kawara, 1940s
Series: Shin Heike monogatari

Some of Tokuriki's original blocks have survived, including those for his design of Higo no Asao-jinja, which is no. 8 in the series of 50 prints titled Seichi shiseki meisho (Scenes of sacred places and historic landmarks: 聖地史蹟名勝). Published by Uchida in 1941, the set features scenes from Japan's historic shrines, temples, castles, and other man-made and natural structures like bridges and waterfalls. The series was republished in 1988, but was machine printed. Aso-jinja (Aso Shrine: 阿蘇神社) is situated in what was ancient Higo Province (肥後国 now called Kumamoto-ken, i.e., Kumamoto Prefecture, 熊本県) on the island of Kyûshû (九州). The shrine was a center of worship before the accession of the first emperor of Japan, Jinmu-tennô (神武天皇), c. 660 BC. The original location of the shrine is uncertain, however, as it was destroyed and rebuilt many times in or near the crater of Aso-zan (Mount Aso: 阿蘇山), the largest active volcano in Japan and one the largest in the world. The present buildings date from the Tenpô era (1830–1844).

Tokuriki Tomikichirô: Higo no Asao-jinja, keyblock, 1941
Series: Seichi shiseki meisho, 305 x 425 mm
Tokuriki Tomikichirô: Higo no Asao-jinja, print, 1941
Series: Seichi shiseki meisho, 288 x 417 mm

Another of Tokuriki's atmospheric views is his print known as Kamogawa haru no yoi (Kamo River, spring evening: 加茂川春宵), published by Tokuriki's company Matsukyû (末詳). It is signed Tomikichirô 富吉郞 in the block at the top left; the image measures approximately 232 x 340 mm on paper that is 265 x 390 mm (large ôban format). It appears that this design might have been first published around 1949. There is also a numbered edition of 200 (with a gradated dark blue sky), and one or more further editions in later years (with a textured gray sky, as shown below). Moreover, the design was also recarved in a much larger format (approx. 420 x 545 mm image plus margins) for a numbered and pencil-signed edition of 100.

The view through the leafless tree across the Kamogawa in Kyoto offers a span of restaurant and teahouse rooms glowing in yellow light, with the river below the tree reflecting the illumination. The scene feels nostalgic, evoking earlier evening landscapes and citscapes by the Edo-period master Utagawa Hiroshige. The Kamogawa, which is also written using characters that mean "The river of wild ducks" (鴨川), has an interesting history, not the least of which is its designation as the birthplace of the popular kabuki theater. In 1603, Izumo no Okuni (出雲阿国) formed a troupe of female dancers and began performing on a makeshift stage where the Kamo riverbed was dry. These dance skits (kabuki odori) are today considered embryonic kabuki performances. © 2019-2022 by John Fiorillo

Tokuriki Tomikichirô: Kamogawa haru no yoi (加茂川春宵), c. 1949 (printed later); image 232 x 340 mm
Also known as Kyoto Kamogawa no yoi (Evening at Kamogawa in Kyoto: 京都加茂川の宵)

Prints by Tokuriki are in the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Nagoya; Art Gallery of Greater Victoria; Brooklyn Museum, NY; Carnegie Museum of Art;Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Five College Museums/Historic Deerfield Collections; Harvard Art Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago; University of Alberta Art Collection; Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro; and Yale University Art Gallery.


  • Fujikake, Shizuya: Japanese Woodblock Prints. Tokyo: Tourist Library 10, Japan Travel Bureau, enlarged and rev. ed., 1949.
  • Merritt, Helen: Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: The Early Years. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990, pp. 88-92.
  • Smith, Lawrence: Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989: Woodblocks and Stencils. London: British Museum Press, 1994, p. 36 and no. 50.
  • Statler, Oliver: Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn. Rutland: Tuttle, 1956, pp. 118-122, 126, 199; nos. 72-73.
  • Tokuriki, Tomikichirô: Woodblock Printing. (trans. Arimatsu Teruko) Osaka: Hoikusha Publishing Company, 1968
  • Zehnder, Amanda (intro.): Modern Japanese Prints: The Twentieth Century. Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Museum of Art, 2009, pp. 174-177..
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