Ōuchi Makoto

Artist with printmaking tools, c. 1980

Source:Japanese Prints Today: Tradition with Innovation, Margaret K. Johnson, Dale K. Hilton, Shufunotomo Co., Ltd., 1980, p. 51. 

Ōuchi Makoto 大内マコト(1926 - 1989) 


Born in 1926 in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo, Ōuchi, an only child, "spent many solitary hours drawing and painting."1  However, his desire to go to art school was stymied by his parents and he attended Kanagawa Prefectural Technical High School, graduating in 1945.  Drawn to the discipline required of the craftsman "and his own natural inclination toward a more direct contact"2 with his art he took up print making.  Reading the few books available in Japanese on metal plate printing and seeking the advice of other artists working with metal plates,  he initially created his own acrylic plates which he inscribed with drypoint techniques.  He was to go on to use both metal and paper blocks in his printing3, rejecting traditional woodblock as giving images a flat-look.4 

Drawn to the Kabuki theater since childhood he spent considerable time around actors, becoming familiar with their roles.5 His Kabuki-themed prints such as this collection's print "Shibaraku" (暫) reflect this familiarity. While traditional ukiyo-e themes are portrayed in Ōuchi's work, he places them within a modernist framework of cubes and cylinders giving a 3-dimensional effect.  

"Cubes, blocks, and dimensional wall sections are all forms which Ōuchi is fond of using, for he finds in them the perfect shape enabling him to surround reality.  Looking through old traditional drawings, the artist discovered an esoteric significance that delighted him. These old patterns enveloping the mysterious box are endowed with a new value by being placed in a fresh context."6

"Ōuchi explains that the cube to him represents the man-made confinement of mankind, the intrusions on man's freedoms.  'Right angles are made by man, while curved lines - of fruits, for instance - are made by nature.'"7

As to the artist's appropriation of images created by the great masters of Ukiyo-e, the print dealers and publishers Mary and Norman Tolman wrote:

uchi adores Sharaku's portraits, and they often appear in his own prints.  Courtesans, actors, and landscapes by Utamaro, Hokusai, Hiroshige, and Kunimasa, as well as characters from Japanese fairytales and legends, are another source of inspriation - but inspiration only.  Ōuchi uses them to revoke the past, but it is his originality that makes them contemporary."8

Ōuchi had worked with The Tolman Collection for a period , but as explained by Norm Tolman, "Ōuchi was a diamond-in-the-rough, heart-of-gold, shirt-off-his-back type, but somewhat hard to take when he was in his cups, which he often was, a circumstance that eventually resulted in strained relations between us."9

"How I Produce My Copperplate Prints"

Source: Aramusha - Ouchi Makoto: The Artist Warrior, Mary S. Tolman, Norma H. Tolman, ed., Sobunsha, 1982, p. 16.

Ōuchi's work employs "a combination of etching processes as wall as embossed effects created by paper blocks. His methods as well as the tasteful dispositions of color and the romanticism of a long-gone past are all creative innovations of Ōuchi, achieved after many years of trial and error, accomplished through his own persistence and desire to be an artist."

click on image to enlarge

Source: Aramusha - Ouchi Makoto: The Artist Warrior, Mary S. Tolman, Norma H. Tolman, ed., Sobunsha, 1982, p. 104-105.

Professional Associations and Collections

Ōuchi joined the Independent Artist's Association in 1957 and, in the same year, had is first solo show held at the Japan Club in New York.  He was a member of the Japan Print Association  (Hanga Kyōkai), twice served as its secretary-general and in 1968 won their Yamamoto Kanae Prize.  He was a frequent exhibitor at the College Women's Association of Japan annual print show.  He exhibited at a number of international print exhibitions including the Shell Art Prize Exhibition in 1962, 64 and 68; the International Print Biennale (Switzerland) in 1970 and from 1979 to 1986 the Ibiza International Print Biennial, Spain.


His work is in the collections of the  Art Gallery of New South Wales; British Museum; Brooklyn Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The National Museum of Art, Osaka; University of Sydney, Australia, among others.

1 44 Modern Japanese Print Artists, Gaston Petit, Kodansha International Ltd., 1973, Vol. 2, p. 96.

2 Ibid.

3 Merritt in Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints references Ōuchi's use of woodblock-printed color, but I have found no other corroboration for this.

4 Collecting Modern Japanese Prints, Then and Now, Mary and Norman Tolman, Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1994, p. 55.

5 Japanese Prints Today: Tradition with Innovation, Margaret K. Johnson, Dale K. Hilton, Shufunotomo Co., Ltd., 1980, p. 51.

6 44 Modern Japanese Print Artists, Petit, p. 97.

7 Op. cit,, Japanese Prints Today, p. 52.

8 People Who Make Japanese Prints, A Personal Glimpse, Mary S. and Norman H. Tolman, Sobunsha, 1982, p. 116.

9 Op. cit., Collecting Modern Japanese Prints, p. 55.

Artist's Seals 


Ōuchi Makoto


Ōuchi Makoto



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Prints in Collection

click on thumbnail for print details

Fan - Ka, c. 1975

IHL Cat. #884

Road, c. 1978

IHL Cat. #2143

Tsuru, 1982

IHL Cat. #1370

Aki, 1982

IHL Cat. #1369


IHL Cat. #1338

Asakusa, c. 1980s

IHL Cat. #1085

Shibaraku, 1983

IHL Cat. #869