Un' ichi Hiratsuka Biography

Un' ichi Hiratsuka




Printmaker Un'ichi Hiratsuka was born in Matsume, Shimane provence, Japan, in 1895. The son of a shrine carpenter and grandson of an architect and temple designer, he was encouraged from a young age to pursue a creative discipline. By the late 1920s he was considered on of the leaders of the sosaku hanga woodcut movement and began teaching in 1928,. Among his students was the later-renowned artist Shiko Munakata. 

Hiratsuka taught the first blockprinting course at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, from 1935 to 1944. In 1962, as part of the government's program to improve relations between Japan and the United States, he relocated to Washington, D.C. on a commission by the U.S. government to carve woodblock prints of national landmarks such as the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. He ultimately remained in the United States until 1994, when he returned to Japan.

Because of his family's background, many of his prints focus on temples, shrines, and other architectural subjects found in Japan and along his travels throughout the U.S. and Korea. His style evolved over time to become more minimalist in nature, eventually working in black and white. He developed a technique he called tsukibori ("poking strokes"), which entailed rocking a square-end chisel side to side in short strokes, creating jagged-edged lines. 

His work can be found at the National Gallery, the Freer Gallery, and the Chicago Museum of Art. In 1970 he was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government and, in 1991, the Hiratsuka Un'ichi Print Museum was opened in Suzaka, Naga prefecture. 

Hiratsuka died in 1997 at the age of 102.