Shotei Hiroaki – Shin Hanga Landscape Pioneer

Right after Labor Day we uploaded an exhibition of over 50 woodblock prints by Shotei, under the moniker Shotei Hiroaki – Shin Hanga Landscape Pioneer.  In our typical fashion, we have been promoting our exhibition of Facebook. In a recent post, I posted an image of  Moonrise at Tokumochi (shown below) and said:

If you really think about it, Shotei Hiroaki, and not his more famous counterparts – Kawase Hasui and Hiroshi Yoshida – is the true pioneer of the landscape genre of the shin hanga school. Hiroaki’s earliest prints date to 1907, while Hasui’s were from 1918, and Yoshida’s from 1920. Hiroaki’s works, with some exceptions, have remained some of the most affordable shin hanga prints. This month we are featuring an exhibition of over 50 Hiroaki prints.

According to the seminal site for Hiroaki’s works,, Shozaburo Watanabe considered oban and larger prints to be “high class colour prints” while smaller format prints were considered commercial “tourist prints”. Accordingly, most smaller prints published by Watanabe do not have the Watanabe publisher’s seal. The exception to this rule is the chuban format print Moonrise at Tokumochi, c. 1930s, pl. C-7, shown below. Every example we have seen of this design bears a white circular Watanabe seal in the lower right corner.

I found one of the comments to the post quite thought provoking and decided to open it up to comments by creating this blog post.  This is the comment:

Nice as they are, I would argue Hiroaki is late ukiyoe since he’s clearly inspired by Hiroshige, Kiyochika and others like Gekko. Watanabe Shozaburo explicitly said Hiroaki was not shin-hanga. He defined shin-hanga as new printing techniques on new thick paper e.g. early Hasui is just full of baren suji swirls and straight lines printed on very dry paper with deckles deliberately not cut.

For the time being, I will keep my thoughts to myself.  What do you think?