Isaku Nakagawa Biography

Isaku Nakagawa




Printmaker and painter Isaku Nakagawa was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1899. He attended the Kyoto School of Fine Arts in 1918, studing under Kikuchi Keigetsu, and the Kyoto City Specialist School of Painting, where he graduated in 1921. He cofounded the Kyoto Sosaku-Hanga Kyokai (Kyoto Creative Print Society) in 1929, and was a member of the Nihon Hanga Kyokai (Japanese Print Association) beginning in 1932. In 1928 he traveled to Okinawa with Yanagi Soetsu, head of the Folk Craft Association, and there he was introduced to Okinawan folk arts and crafts, which would become a great source of inspiration to him throughout his career.

As Nakagawa began to make for himself in the Japanese print world, his works were included in a major traveling Japanese print exhibition that took place from 1930 to 1932, going from Japan to Paris to Switzerland to New York. To support himself he worked as a dealer in fine Japanese antique art, and in 1936 he became president of the Oriental Antique Art Study Group. Two years later, he would exhibit his collection of Okinawan ceramics at the Kyoto National Museum.

In the meantime, his color woodcuts of fish and Modernist depictions of women in highly detailed, fashionable kimonos became increasingly popular, and he began designing fabrics based on his designs. He wrote two books on the subject of textile design in 1941 and 1952, both illustrated with his color woodcuts. In 1960 he exhibited his color woodcuts in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, and in 1964 he was invited to lecture on Japanese art and printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute and the Rudolf Schaeffer School of Art. He was later given a key to the city by the mayor of San Francisco.

In 1972, after further travels throughout the Americas and Mexico, Nakagawa moved to Chinaba, Okinawa, building his own ceramics studio and teaching himself how to fire the unglazed Okinawan pottery he had long admired, known as arayaki. He remained in Okinawa for the rest of his life, working and exhibiting until his death in 2000, at the age of 100.