Fujio Yoshida


Flowering Kale

woodblock print; titled, signed, and dated in pencil on the bottom margin, Flowering kale, Fujio Yoshida 1953, with red artist's seal within the composition on the lower right, dated and titled in Japanese on the left margin, sen kyuhyaku goju sannen saku (made in 1953), Habotan, 1953

oban tate-e 15 3/4 by 10 5/8 in., 40.1 by 27 cm

Fujio Yoshida was initially the younger sister (by virtue of his adoption into the family) of Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950), and later, his wife. Their father, Yoshida Kasaburo (1861-1894), a Western-style painter with four daughters and no sons to carry on the family name, adopted his promising fifteen-year-old student, Ueda Hiroshi, in 1891. Although Kasaburo would see the birth of a son in 1893, the following year he passed, leaving Hiroshi responsible for his adoptive family including Kasaburo's widow, Rui, and their five children. Fujio, only seven years old at the time, became financially dependent on Hiroshi who oversaw her artistic training as well. In April 1899, at the age of twelve, Fujio was enrolled in the Fudosha, the same painting academy in Tokyo where Hiroshi trained. Entrusting the director, Koyama Shotaro (1857-1916), to keep an eye on Fujio who was the only female among some thirty male students, Hiroshi departed in October with his friend and fellow-artist from the Fudosha academy, Nakagawa Hachiro (1877-1922), for a life-changing journey to the United States and Europe, where their work was exceptionally well-received, returning triumphantly to Japan in the summer of 1901. A little over two years later in December 1903, Hiroshi brought Fujio with him on his second trip abroad for an even longer sojourn around the world, painting and showing their works in numerous exhibitions promoting the novelty brother-sister artistic duo. Literally working side by side, with mirrored artist training and a shared affinity for watercolor landscapes, their painting technique was very similar, and the subjects were frequently only slightly different vantages of the very same views. The pair returned to Japan a little over three years later in February 1907 and married in April.

Having transition first from sister and brother, to ward and guardian, then student and teacher as travel companions, their alliance by marriage did not diminish Hiroshi's ambitions for Fujio who he believed could establish herself as a serious artist. Hiroshi pushed Fujio to submit her watercolors to the all-important government sponsored exhibitions that could make or break a young artist's career. Even after the birth of their first child in July 1908, their daughter Chisato, Fujio continued to paint and exhibit her works in the public exhibitions. In July 1911 their son Toshi was born, but only two months later Chisato suddenly died, and within a year baby Toshi was struck with polio and left partially paralyzed. Years later, Fujio recorded in her memoir that she blamed herself for prioritizing her painting and was never able to forgive herself for the back-to-back tragedies. Consumed by guilt and focused on Toshi's rehabilitation, it would be nearly ten years before she exhibited her work again in 1920, and in the following decades she shifted away from landscapes, focusing instead on still-life watercolors.

Fujio's first woodblock prints were produced shortly after Hiroshi up his own print studio in 1925, when a few of her luminous floral still-life paintings were adapted by professional carvers and printers. The results, while attractive, fall far short of her expressive painterly style and she did not continue in the format. She returned to the print medium almost three decades later in 1953 when she began to produce woodblock prints based on the abstract oils of extreme close-ups of flowers, the first of which she produced in 1946, four years before the death of her husband.

According to Oliver Statler, who in 1959 notes that "The newest addition to the Yoshida print-makers is the oldest member of the group," Fujio's foray into learning woodblock carving and printing techniques for herself began with a design for "artisan production," meaning, produced with the assistance of the professional carvers and printers working in the Yoshida studios. This print, depicting Flowering Kale, with fluid block-carving and evenly saturated printing appears to be the work of professionals, and may be that first design of what would eventually total twelve woodblock prints depicting Fujio's floral abstractions, although the subsequent eleven designs were apparently self-carved.

Yoshida Family Collection

Oliver Statler, Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn, 1959, pp. 171-172
Ogura Tadao, Chronological History, in Yoshida Hiroshi zenhangashu (The Complete Woodblock Prints of Hiroshi Yoshida), 1987, pp. 178-183
Catalogue of Collections, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 1993, p. 262, no. 2525
Laura W. Allen, ed., A Japanese Legacy: Four Generations of Yoshida Family Artists, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2002, pp. 154-159; p. 169, cat. no. 120
Yoshida Fujio: A Painter of Radiance, Fuchu Art Museum and Fukuoka Art Museum, 2002, p. 100, no. 147(print); p. 91, no. 131 (Flower [Rhythm] 1951)
Minneapolis Institute of Art (collections.artmia.org), accession no. 2013.29.529
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, recently acquired an impression of this work from the Yoshida Family Collection
Art Institute of Chicago, reference no. 2013.25

(inv. no. C-3563)

price: $1,200 (reserved)


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