Onchi Kōshirō sensei, 1942-1943

by Sekino Jun'ichirō

IHL Cat. #2643

Description

Sekino's portrait of his teacher Onchi Kōshirō 恩地孝四郎 (1891-1955), the towering figure in the sōsaku hanga (creative print) movement in Japan. This collection's print, likely a trial impression of the final print that was to appear in the first issue of The First Thursday Collection (一木集 Ichimoku-shū) in  September 1944, was previously held by the Sekino family. In my correspondence about this print with Elias Martin of Collecting Japanese Prints, he noted this "print is a rare trial impression that has several noticeable differences from the finished print (note the difference in the collar and the overall printing style). Being a trial impression, I believe your print is missing a couple of color blocks and may represent the print before Sekino finalized all the printing blocks for the finished design. Your print is a very interesting impression that shows the artistic process at work."

The First Thursday Collection grew out of Onchi's First Thursday Society (Ichimoku-kai), formed in 1939. The Society, operating out of Onchi's home in Tokyo, served as a forum for creative print artists providing camaraderie, support and, as Japan's wars of aggression dragged on, a source of scarce print-making materials. Sekino, who was instrumental in forming the Society, serving as its unofficial secretary, describes the formation of the Society as a way of lessening the interruptions to Onchi's work by frequent visits from young artists.

Lawrence Smith notes that "Onchi's high social position seems to have protected his friends" and goes on to say that with his powerful portrait of Onchi, Sekino "virtually states that their leader is their protection."1 

The Society would issue a total of six First Thursday Collections, with the last being issued in December 1950, by which time three Americans, including Ernst Hacker (1917-1987), had become members of the group. "Historically, the Society proved to be the most important agent for the rehabilitation of contemporary Japanese prints."2 

1 Japanese Prints During the Allied Occupation 1945-1952, Lawrence Smith, British Museum Press, 2003, p.33.2 ibid., p. 36. 

Print Details

Title cartouche barely visible in upper left reading 恩地孝四郎先生Onchi Kōshirō sensei