Yamagishi Kazue

"Artist and Artisan"

photo of artist, c. 1930s

Yamagishi Kazue 山岸主計 (1891-1984)


A highly skilled carver, sought after by both shin hanga and sōsaku hanga artists, he also designed and carved the blocks for three significant series of landscape prints based on his travels, One Hundred Views of the World, One Hundred Views of East Asia and One Hundred Views of Japan. Today he is best remembered as a master carver and his self-designed, carved and printed woodblocks are largely overlooked.

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Education he travelled to the United States in Europe from 1926 to 1929 to teach and demonstrate Japanese woodblock technique and conduct research on prints.

 Surely one of the greatest woodblock carvers in history. No effect was beyond his skills.[1]

[1] Journal of the Print World, Meredith, N.H. : Colonial Antiques Associates, 1987, as quoted from by the Prints of Japan website.

Prints in Collection

click on image for details

IHL Cat. #2018

Music at Winter Garden in New York, c. 1926

image: 9 3/8 x 4 1/8 in.

sheet: 9 9/16 x 4 5/16 in.

IHL Cat. #2632

Ensenada, Mexico, 1927


image: 11 1/8 x 14 1/8 in.

sheet: 13 1/4 x 16 5/8 in.

IHL Cat. #2155

Outside Plymouth Bay, Great Britain, 1928

英国 プリマウス港外 

image: 11 1/8 x 14 1/8 in.

sheet: 13 1/2 x 16 3/4 in.

IHL Cat. #2629

Ryūkō-ji Nichiren, 1948

日蓮 龍口寺

image: 11 1/8 x 14 13/16 in.

sheet: 13 1/4 x 16 1/16 in.

IHL Cat. #2630

Yugyōji Tōtaku-san, 1946-1955

藤沢山 遊行寺 

image: 11 3/16 x 14 13/16 in.

sheet: 13 1/4 x 16 1/8 in.


Biography compiled primarily  from the following sources: List of Modern Japanese Printmakers (1900-1945) Artists who produced prints before the war (4) (second half) published by Hangadō 版画堂 and "Printmaker Across the Sea: Kazue Yamagishi - Works from the Fujisawa City Collection" at Fujisawa Art Space.

Yamagishi Kazue was born on September 15, 1891 in Misuzu Village (now Ina City) in Nagano Prefecture. After graduating high school at the age of 15 he moved to Tokyo to apprentice under woodblock carver Mutō Rikichi 武藤李吉 (dates unknown).[1]  In 1913 he started working at the newspaper Yomiuri Shinbun, where his teacher, Mutō, had worked, in charge of carving illustrations for the paper. After four years at the paper he left to start his own carving business and at about that same time started studying Western-style painting (yōga) at Kuroda Seiki's 黒田清輝 (1866-1924) Aoi-bashi Institute of Western Painting, where he studied until 1921.

In 1917, he carved the woodblock print illustrations, designed by Tanaka Kyōkichi's 田中恭吉 (1892-1915), for Hagiwara Sakutarō's 萩原朔太郎 1886-1942 famous poetry anthology Howling at the Moon (月に吠える Tsuki ni hoeru), the frontispiece of which is shown below. He would go on to carve woodblocks for numerous famous artists and publishers, including all 18 prints for Woodblock Print Supplements to The Complete Works of Chikamatsu (Dai Chikamatsu zenshu furoku mokuhan 大近松全集 付録木版), 1922-1923; the first series of Paul Jacoulet's Album of World Customs (Sekai fūzoku hanga-shū  世界風俗版画集), 1935[2] and Ishikawa Toraji's 石川寅治 (1875-1964)  controversial, at the time, Ten Types of Female Nudes (Rajo jūsshu 裸女十種 ), 1935, shown below. 

Other artists he carved blocks for were, Kishida Ryūsei 岸田劉生 (1891-1929) [covers for the literary magazine Shirakaba (White Birch, 1910-1923)]; Matsuoka Eikyū 松岡映丘 (1881-1938), Yamaguchi Hōshun 山口蓬春 (1893-1971) and Yamamura Toyonari (Kōka) 山村耕花 (1885-1942) for Twelve Views of Japan, 1926; Kobayashi Kaichi 小林かいち (1896-1968); Kojō Kōkan 古城江観 (1891-1988); Kiyoei Kobayashi  小林清栄 (1894-1987); Tatsukichi Fujii 藤井達吉 (1881-1964); Onchi Kōshirō 恩地孝四郎  (1891-1955) (various book covers); Yokoyama Taikan 横山大観 (1868-1958); Takehisa Yumeji 竹久夢二  (1884-1934), who he befriended when they both worked at the Yomiuri Shinbun; Kaburaki Kiyokata 鏑木清方 (1878-1972); and some early works by Yoshida Hiroshi 吉田博 (1876-1950) including El Capitan, shown below.

Also a skilled printer, he would on occasion undertake both the block carving printing of other artist works and often printed his own work. Yamagishi was also a bridge between the two print movements that arose in the wake of the demise of ukiyo-e, shin hanga, the "new print" movement fostered by the publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō 渡辺庄三郎 (1885-1962) and the artist publisher Yoshida Hiroshi and sōsaku hanga, the "creative print" movement, driven by Onchi Kōshirō.

[1] Several sources, including Merritt in Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints 1900-1975, state that Yamagishi was a self-taught carver and that while he did study under 武藤李吉 Mutō Rikichi (also romanized as Mutō Shūhō), Mutō was a sculptor rather than a carver. The 2018 retrospective of Yamagishi's work at the Fujisawa Art Space, however, clearly states the he studied under woodblock carver/engraver Mutō Rikichi.  A web search did not reveal any mention of either a sculptor or woodblock carver with the name 武藤李吉, except within the context of having taught Yamagishi.

[2] "Yamagishi did fourteen very successful woodblock prints for Jacoulet. However, Jacoulet soon came to feel that the prints reflected more of the vision of Yamagishi than of Jacoulet." Source: "The Art of Paul Jacoulet (1897-1960): A Tribute to the Floating World," Peter Adams, appearing in California Art Club Newsletter, February 1998, p. 4.

Examples of Prints Carved by Yamagishi Kazue for Other Artists

Hikari ("Light": 光), is one of eleven prints designed by Tanaka Kiyōkichi 田中恭吉(1892-1915) appearing in Sakutarō Hagiwara's 1917 poetry anthology Tsuki ni hoeru 月に吠える (Howling at the Moon), book design by Onchi Kōshirō. Tanaka's prints were all carved by Yamagishi as Tanaka was in the final months of his terminal illness. 

Marionettes Chinoises, Chinois, c. 1935


Paul Jacoulet (1896–1960)  

image: 15 1/3 x 11 3/4 in. (39 x 29.8 cm)

Tinkle of the Bell from Ten Types of Female Nudes 

裸女十種 鈴の音

Ishikawa Toraji 石川寅治 (1875-1964)

image: 11 3/4 x 15 in. (29.8 x 38.1 cm)

sheet: 14 1/4 x 19 in. (35.6 x 48.3 cm)

Yamagishi carved all the blocks for the ten print series.

El Capitan from the series United States, 1925 


Yoshida Hiroshi 吉田博 (1876-1950)

image: 14 3/4 × 9 7/8 in. (37.4 × 25.1 cm) 

sheet: 16 1/2 × 10 3/4 in. (41.9 × 27.3 cm) 

Louvre Museum


oil on canvas 

image: 21 1/4 x 18 in. (54 x 45.5 cm.) 

Yamagishi was an accomplished Western-style (yōga), i.e. oil painting, artist. As early as 1918 his oil painting Still Life was accepted into the 15th Pacific Painting Society Exhibition of the Pacific Art Society (Taiheiyō Gakai) and later purchased by the Imperial Household Agency. But he was clearly drawn to woodblock prints, and encouraged to pursue print making by Kuroda Seiki, as both a means of expression and income. His broad experience as both a master carver and woodblock print designer led to a commission in 1925 by the Ministry of Education to investigate the printmaking situation in Europe and the United States, traveling to fifteen countries, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, France, Germany and Belgium from 1926 to 1929. During his travels, exhibitions of his work were held in a number of countries, particularly in the United States where shows were held at San Francisco's Bohemian Club, the University of California at Berkeley and the Art Institute of Chicago. He also led a number of classes in woodblock carving, including classes at University of California Berkeley in February 1927 and again in 1928 and in 1929 in Seattle, Washington "to teach the traditional methods of creating color prints from multiple blocks, imparting first hand experience to local artists who had been self instructing."[1]

[1] Territorial Hues: The Color Print and Washington State 1920-1960, https://www.cascadiaartmuseum.org/territorial-hues-the-color-print-and-washington-state-1920-1960/

Woodblock Prints of the Artist

Yamagishi's self-carved, self-printed and self-published woodblock prints, largely generated in the late 1920s into the late 1930s, seem to go largely unexplored by scholars. Primarily landscapes based upon his extensive travels, they also encompass the nude figure and multiple styles. Perhaps the destruction of his studio, equipment, inventory of prints and printing blocks during allied air raids in 1945 contributes to the incorrectly held belief that his print oeuvre was fairly limited.

It is unknown when he created his first print, but the print shown below on the left bearing a date of 1917 must be one of his earliest woodblock prints. Interestingly, the design for the two trees was reused by Yamagishi in his c. 1930 print Notre Dame from the Banks of the Seine, as shown below.

Two Trees 二樹 , 1917

image: 12 1/2 x 10 1/3 in. (31.7 x 26.2 cm)

Notre Dame from the Banks of the Seine, c. 1930

sheet: 16 5/8 by 12 1/2 in. (42.3 by 31.9 cm) 

His best known series, each an intended one hundred prints, are One Hundred Views of Japan (Nihon hyakkei 日本百景), 1929, One Hundred Views of the World (Sekai hyakkei 世界百景), 1928 to 1937 and One Hundred Views of East Asia (Ta hyakkei 東亜百景) 1939-1943.[1] Each of these series came out of Yamagishi's extensive travel and his resulting sketches of the places he visited. Neither One Hundred Views of East Asia or One Hundred Views of Japan were completed. 

A founding member of the Japan Print Association (Nihon Hanga Kykai) in 1931,  whose goal was to promote the art of Japanese printmaking through international exhibitions, regular exhibitions of new works and encouraging the establishment of printmaking departments at public art schools, he exhibited seven works from One Hundred Views of the World at the JPA's first exhibition, continuing to exhibit his prints with the Association through their fifth exhibition in 1936.[2] In the 1930s, his work was exhibited in Paris in 1932 and again in 1934 at the JPA's Paris exhibition "Contemporary Japanese Printmaking and Its Sources." As early as 1928 his works were acquired by both the Louvre and British Museum. 

As pressure mounted for artists to support the war effort and, in return, receive the materials they required to pursue their art, Yamagishi would serve at the front as a war artist, undertaking five tours in China, Taiwan and other countries from 1939-1943. He also joined the Japan Print Public Service Association (Nippon Hanga hōkōkai 版画奉公会 ) "an enforced governmental merger of all the print societies and publishers to serve the war effort", headed by Onchi Kōshirō.[3] Two examples of his rare war prints shown below.

His studio, print inventory and woodblocks in Kōjimachi, Chiyoda, Tokyo were destroyed by fire in an air raid in May 1945 as was much of his work in 1923 as a result of the Great Kantō Earthquake. After the war, in 1947, he moved to Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture and in 1950 he participated in the founding of the Fujisawa City Artists Association, exhibiting in its first exhibition the following year. He would later serve as a juror for this exhibition. Around 1949 he taught print making at the U.S. Military Education Center and in 1951 he produced peace postcards to commemorate the signing of the Japan-U.S. Peace Treaty at the request of Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida.


His later series of prints included the Buddha Statue 仏像 series and the Flowers and Vases 花と壺 series produced c. 1958. In the 1960s Yamagishi's work appears to have focused on roughly cut monochrome works as shown below. In 1964, he donated many of his works to Fujisawa City. In 1983 he returned to Ina City, the place of his birth, donating works, woodblocks, and materials to the city where he would pass away the following year at the age of 94.

Many of his works are housed in Ina City and Fujisawa City, both cities having mounted exhibitions of his work in recent years.

[1] One Hundred Views of East Asia came out of Yamagishi's visits to Manchuria and Korea in 1937 and five trips to China and Mongolia from 1939-1943.

[2] Japan Print Association website in English http://www.hangakyoukai.com/en/member/index.html#bukko

[3] Since Meiji: Perspectives on the Japanese Visual Arts, edited by J. Thomas Rimer, University of Hawai'i Press, 2012, p. 382.

Scenic Views of Japan

Most of the below prints are likely from the artist's series One Hundred Views of Japan (Nihon hyakkei), 1929. All prints image size approximately 11 1/4 x 14 1/8 in. (28.6 x 35.9 cm).

Yugyō-ji, Fujisawayama

藤沢山 遊行寺

In Kyoto


Ina machi, Shinshū


Nichiren Ryūkōji Temple


Scenic Views from Around The World


Most of the below prints are likely from the artist's series One Hundred Views of the World  (Sekai hyakkei), 1928-1937. 

All prints image size approximately 11 1/4 x 14 1/8 in. (28.5 x 36 cm) unless otherwise noted

Notre Dame Cathedral in the Rain, 1928


Banks of the Seine


At Venice, 1928


At München, Germany


In California, 1927


Weaving in the American Southwest


View of Grand Canyon


May 1928

Windmill, Holland, c. 1930s

image: 13 x 9 3/4 in.

Venice, c. 1930s

image: 11 1/2 x 9 1/8 in.

Yamagishi traveled to war zones in Asia as a military artist recording the scenes he observed. 


All prints image size approximately 11 1/4 x 14 1/8 in. (28.5 x 36 cm) unless otherwise noted

War Landscape (Sensō fukei),

c. 1942-1943

Defense of the Kuril Islands

千島の護り, c. 1942-1943

note: print is numbered 7 in an edition of 8


Woman viewing a woodblock print (at the University of California), 1927

Mokuhanga o miru onna 木版画を見る女

image: 7 3/4 x 11 1/8 in.  (19.8 x 28.3 cm)

sheet: 9 1/2 x 12 5/8 in. (24.1 x 32.1 cm)

University of Sydney, Chau Chak Wing Museum Ua1996.8

Yamagishi held a solo exhibition at the Bohemian Club, San Francisco in December 1926. The praise for his skill by Haig Patigian (1876-1950), a sculptor and the president of the club, triggered a flood of requests for lectures and demonstrations. This print was created during his demonstration at the University of California in the following year. [source: Japan in Sydney: Professor Sadler & Modernism 1920-30s, editors Luke Parker and Ann Stephen, University Art Gallery, University of Sydney, 2011.cat. 109, p. 147.]

Bathing, 1930

Nyūyoku 入浴

10 1/4 x 13 3/4 (26 x 34.8 cm)

image source: website of Elias Martin's gallery CJS

Spring, c. 1950s

image: 9 13/16 x 13 1/3 in. (25 x 33.8 cm)

image source: Artelino archive

Later Prints by the Artist

Surfing, c. 1960s

sheet: 13 3/4 x 16 3/4 (34.8 x 42.3 cm)

untitled, c. 1960s

sheet: 13 3/4 x 16 3/4 (35 x 42.5 cm)

Life on a Tightrope, 1968


sheet: 13 9/16 x 16 3/4 (34.5 x 42.5 cm)

Signatures and Seals of the Artist (A Sampling)


Kazue signature and seal


Kazue signature and seal



Kazue signature with Kazue seal in kana




Kazue hitsu?

top seal: unread

bottom seal: 

Yamagishi Kazue



top seal: Yamagishi

bottom seal: Kazue



K. Yamagishi

pencil signature of artist