Yozo Hamaguchi Biography

Yozo Hamaguchi




Yozo Hamaguchi, printmaker, was born in Wakayama, Japan in 1909, the son of Gihei, who was the tenth president of the soy sauce producer Yamasa Shoyu. Originally considered to be the next in line to take over the company, Hamaguchi was instead drawn to visual arts, inspired by the works that his father, a Nanga painting collector, kept throughout the house. In 1927 Hamaguchi left the family business to enroll in the Tokyo Art School, training in sculpture. He left the school in 1930 and moved to France on the advice of artist Umehara Ryuzaburo, opting to study modern Western art and the techniques of oil painting, printmaking, and watercolor. He lived there until 1939, becoming acquainted with leading international artists and luminaries, including the writer e.e. cummings who was instrumental in introducing him to mezzotint printmaking.

With the outbreak of World War II, Hamaguchi returned once more to Japan. There he met artist Keiko Minami, whom he would later marry. Throughout the 1940s he established himself as a pioneering mezzotint artist, often credited with introducing the medium to his birthplace. His style - graphic, subtle, and primarily in a monochromatic palette - gained widespread popularity throughout Europe and, in 1951, he held his first solo exhibition at the Formes Gallery in Tokyo. Around 1953 Hamaguchi and Minami returned to France, settling in Paris and, in 1954, he became a member of the Salon d'Automne. That same year he won the Best Art Piece prize at the Contemporary Art Exhibition of Japan. In 1955 he began experimenting with color as well as abstraction, retaining his refined tonality, to acclaim from critics, artists, and institutions. He won the Grand Prize of the International Printmaking Division at the San Paolo Biennial in 1957, and that same year he participated in the first International Biennial Print Exhibition in Tokyo, where he won the National Museum of Modern Art (Tokyo) Prize. In 1960 served as representative of the Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Hamaguchi's compositions were usually the still life genre, simplifying the elements and suspending them against velvety grounds in a signature style that appealed strongly to western patrons. In 1961 Hamaguchi and Minami moved from Paris to San Francisco, California, where they lived until 1996. During this time, he was commissioned by the Olympic Committee to design the official poster for the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics and the following year he was given his first major retrospective in Japan at the Toyo Yurakucho Art Forum. Hamaguchi continued to work and exhibit his mezzotints until his retirement in 1993, leaving the printing of his plates to his publisher. He and Minami returned to Tokyo in 1996, and in 1998 the Musée Hamaguchi Yozo was established in Tokyo.

Yozo Hamaguchi died in Tokyo on December 25, 2000.

Hamaguchi is credited as being among the many 20th century artists to help revive the 17th century intaglio technique, promoting mezzotint as a viable modern art form appropriate for the expressive genres of the time. Among awards and recognition received throughout his career were:

Ninth Mainachi Newspaper Art Award, Intern't'l Exh. of Drawings and Engravings, Switzerland, 1958
Chosen as the Japanese representative at the Venice Biennale, 1960
Grand Prize, Intern't'l Biennale of Graphic Art, Yugoslavia, 1961
Prize at Krakow Intern't'l Print Biennal, Poland, 1966
Prize at 4th Intern't'l Print Biennal, Krakow, 1972
Sarajevo Fine Art Academy Prize, Intern't'l Bienna of Graphic Art, 1977
Cultural Award of Wakayama Prefecture on reloaction to U.S., 1981
Grand Prize, Northern California Regional Prize Competition, 1982
"Cherries and Blue Bowl" used for commemorative posters at Sarajevo Winter Olympics, 1984
Awarded Order of the Rising Sun ribbon, 1986
First prize, North American Art Review, 1994

Solo exhibitions in New York and San Francisco, 1983
Retrospective, Tokyo Yurakucho Art Forum and the National Museum of Art, Oskaka, 1985
Retrospective, Museu de Arte de Sao Paolo, 1988
Retrospective, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, 1990
Retrospective, Otani Memorial Art Museum, Hyogo Prefecture, 1992
Solo exhib., Mushashino city Civic and Cultural Center, 1994
Joint exhibit with Keiko Minami, Tokyo Department Shop Kichijyoji, 1998
Solo exhibition "Hamaguchi Yozo - Monochrome Works," Sakura City Museum of Art, 1999