1923 Before & After: Japanese Prints and the Great Kanto Earthquake

New York Asia Week, September 17–24, 2021

In our current gallery presentation, 1923 Before & After: Japanese Prints and the Great Kanto Earthquake, we explore of the revitalization of woodblock printmaking in the early 20th century and how it evolved and changed after the devastation of the September 1, 1923 earthquake. The theme was inspired, in part, by an unexpected influx of modern Japanese prints known as shin-hanga (new prints) acquired from private collections, along with the discovery of a small photograph album documenting the destruction of Tokyo as a result of the quake itself and the firestorms that swept mercilessly across the city. The tragedy levelled huge sections of the capital, the port city of Yokohama, and surrounding prefectures with a tremendous loss of life. Many of those who did survive lost everything. This seminal disaster had a profound effect on all aspects of life, including amongst the artistic community. In struggling to rebuild in the aftermath, print artists and publishers who were able to return to production needed to adapt to a changed environment. While modern prints produced before the earthquake are appreciated for their beauty and valued for their comparative scarcity as a result of the destruction to collections of print inventories and the original woodblocks; some of the most coveted designs were produced in the years following the earthquake as the genre developed a finely tuned aesthetic of what could be called ‘high’ shin-hanga. The exhibition presents works from before and after the earthquake, contrasting works from both periods by some of the same artists and exploring the interpretation of various publishers.

Japanese Prints and the Great Kanto Earthquake


Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only

Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
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site last updated
May 25, 2023

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475