Rokushu Mizufune Biography

Rokushu Mizufune




Sculptor and printmaker Rokushu Mizufune was born Rokushu Tanaka in Kusari-cho, Hiroshima, Japan on March 26, 1912. His father was a calligrapher and his older brother, Sanyo, was a Western-style painter. Mizufune found great inspiration in the sculpture of Auguste Rodin and the woodcuts of Edvard Munch while still in junior high school, and decided to pursue these mediums as a result. In 1930 he enrolled in sculpture courses at Tokyo School of Fine Arts, and was introduced to printmaking in a temporary course offered at the school in 1935. This inspired him to join the Shinokisha woodblock printmaking club formed by his cohorts before graduating in 1936.

That year, Mizufune began work as an art teacher at the Kanto Gakuin Educational Corporation. Meanwhile, he continued to produce his own artwork, building a prolific portfolio of sculpture, etchings, and woodcuts, and he exhibited frequently. Though he followed a traditional exhibition path, joining government sponsored exhibitions and panels, his style was greatly influenced by contemporary Western avent-garde, earning him some controversy. Despite this, his work was generally well received and over time he was regarded as one of Japan's leading modern artists. He earned his first major award for a sculpture at the Bunten Japan Fine Arts Exhibition in 1941, before the war put his pursuits on hold. During this time, both of his older brothers died in the war, an experience that changed his outlook on art, and his style became more Expressionist in nature. Once the war ended he began showing annutally at the Nitten Exhibition, starting in 1946. He would also serve as a judge for the show on several occasions from 1951 to 1973.

Until the mid 1950s he primarily worked in sculpture, but in 1955 he turned his attention to color woodcuts. His reputation preceeding him, Mizufune was offered an artist's residency in 1961 at Marlboro College (now a part of Emerson College, Boston) in Marlboro, Vermont, USA. There he remained for a year, studying sculpture and printmaking, before returning to Japan to take a position as a councilor for the Nitten exhibitions. In 1967 he won the Prime Minister's Award for his sculpture "Candlelight" at the 10th Annual Nitten Exhibition, and in 1972 he won the Japan Art Academy Award. 

Rokushu Mizufune died on June 30, 1980, in Tokyo. A major retrospective of his works was held in 2021 at the Kure Municiple Museum of Art.

An in-depth biography of Mizufune can be found here