Itō Takashi

Undated photo of the artist

Itō Takashi 伊藤孝之 (1894-1982) 


Sources: website; Japanese Wood-block Prints, Shizuya Fujikake, Japan Travel Bureau, 1938, p. 88, 89; Printed to Perfection Twentieth-century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection, Joan B. Mirviss, et. al., Smithsonian Gallery and Hotei Publishing, 2004, p. 91. 

Itō Takashi was born in Gama, a suburb of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture in November 1894. He was one of the lesser known landscape artists who designed prints for the shin hanga publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō. Like several other print artists of this period, including Itō Shinsui (1898-1972) and Kawase Hasui (1883-1957), Itō Takashi studied painting under Kaburaki Kiyokata (1878-1973). He graduated from the Kyoto Koto Kogei (Higher Polytechnic) School of Designing where he studied Yoga (Western-style painting) with Totori Eiki (1873-1943), the Koto Kogei Gakko (Kyoto Higher Technical Art School) where he studied Nihonga (traditional Japanese-style painting) with Takeuchi Seihō (1864-1942) and the Tokyo Academy of Fine Arts where he studied Nihonga with painter Yuki Somei (1875-1957). Takashi primarily worked as a painter and started making color woodblock prints in 1922, which he did intermittently throughout the rest of his career.  He exhibited paintings at the Teiten. He designed about 85 woodblock prints from the early 1920's through 1965.

Many of Takashi's early woodblock prints were only printed in one or two colors, because he was still experimenting with composition and design. These prints were probably not widely distributed. In 1923, a devastating earthquake struck Tokyo destroying the blocks for Takashi's early prints. However, at least one print, Ferry at Odai, Tokyo, was re-carved by Watanabe's craftsmen and reprinted for many years afterward.

Many of Takashi's prints are idealistic images that emphasize the beauty of the unspoiled Japanese landscape. He enjoyed depicting dramatic seasonal and weather phenomena and often used bright, almost surreal colors to emphasize these changes. Occasionally people are part of his designs, but they are always incidental, solitary figures. A typical print, Takegawa River at Dawn, shows man living in harmony with nature. Takashi's prints evoke the Japan of old and represent the height of romantic shin hanga landscapes.

Watanabe's Comment on the Artist

Source: Printed to Perfection Twentieth-century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection, Joan B. Mirviss, et. al., Smithsonian Gallery and Hotei Publishing, 2004, p. 91.

The biography of the artist's life included in the 1936 Watanabe sale catalogue is somewhat cryptic.  Watanabe describes Ito as an artist who experimented frequently with printing and overprinting, and that he also carved one design himself entitled Sinking Sun which illustrated the courtyard of Tokyo Imperial University (present-day University of Tokyo.)  Sinking Sun was apparently not published by Watanabe and was distributed by Ito to members of the Edo-Picture Appreciation Society.  Watanabe also states that at the time of the Great Kanto Earthquake in September 1923 a number of trial prints by Ito, done in conjunction with Watanabe's printers, were in progress.  They were subsequently abandoned due to the destruction of his shop premises. 

Comment on Artist's Style

Source: Artelino website article by Dieter Wanczura [accessed 3-14-24]

The style in which Takashi Ito prints were created looks more like brush stroke paintings than typical Japanese woodblock prints. The prints have a lot of color gradation instead of plain even color areas that are so typical for classical Japanese ukiyo-e. It required highly skilled carvers and printers to produce Takashi Ito prints. The Watanabe studio had these excellent artisans!

Samples of Signatures and Seals of the Artist

[1] signed 孝之 (Takashi), sealed 孝之 (Takashi); [2] signed 孝之 (Takashi), sealed 孝之 (Takashi); [3] signed 孝之 (Takashi), sealed 伊藤孝之 (Itō Takashi); [4] signed 孝之 (Takashi), sealed 伊藤孝之 (Itō Takashi)





Prints in Collection

click on thumbnail for print details

Spring Snow at Kamikochi


IHL Cat. #74

The Red Gate at Tokyo University


IHL Cat. #29