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Recommended Books

Listed below are a few of the more useful books on 20th century Japanese prints, in particular shin hanga. Some of these books are out-of-print and can be difficult to locate. Art bookstores, used bookstores, libraries, and museums are all good places to look.

Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: the early years
by Helen Merritt

This book gives an overview of the shin hanga and sosaku hanga movements, and is useful for understanding the cultural and social influences behind each movement. It covers many individual artists, but only goes into depth on a few of the more important printmakers. It has 30 color and 108 b/w illustrations.

Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints, 1900-1975
by Helen Merritt & Nanako Yamada

This is the second volume written by Merritt and compliments her first work. It is an excellent reference work which includes over 1,000 brief biographical entries on 20th century Japanese printmakers, information on art schools, organizations, and exhibitions, as well as some info on publishers, carvers, and printers. It also reproduces some seals and signatures.

Shin-Hanga, New Prints in Modern Japan
by Kendall Brown & Hollis Goodall-Cristante
1996, University of Washington Press, 119 pp.

This informative catalogue covers woodblock printing in Japan as it continued into the twentieth century and explores the links to earlier ukiyo-e artisans. It covers the important shin hanga artists by print category - landscape, actor, bijin-ga, and birds and flowers. It also has a nice sampling of illustrations, 60 color plates and 61 b/w images.

The new wave : 20th Century Japanese Prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection
by Amy Reigle Stephens

This is one of the most sought-after and highly recommended references on shin hanga. Published in 1993, it is unfortunately out of print and difficult to find. The book presents a comprehensive picture of shin hanga from the Taisho and early Showa periods drawing from the spectacular Muller collection for examples. It includes in-depth biographies of Japanese and Western artists from that period. There are 240 large color and 80 b/w illustrations.

Modern Japanese Prints
by Dorothy Blair
1997, Toledo Museum of Art, ~150 pp.

This book reprints the catalogues of the 1930 and 1936 Japanese print exhibitions at the Toledo Museum of Art. These exhibitions featured the most well-known and talented shin-hanga printmakers, including Goyo, Hasui, Shinsui, and Yoshida. Each exhibition numbered about 300 prints, and all of these prints are photographed (in b/w) and described in detail. The photographs are not high quality, but there is still plenty of useful information. The descriptions of each print include such information as carver, publisher, signatures, print size, edition size, and number of blocks.

The Japanese Print Since 1900: Old Dreams and New Visions
by Lawrence Smith
1983, Harper & Row Publishers, 144 pp.

An excellent paperback catalog covering 143 Japanese prints by various 20th century artists from the British Museum collection. All of the prints have detailed descriptions and high quality photos (about half are in color). There is a long introductory essay which covers the transition of Japanese prints from the Meiji period through the 20th century. Both shin hanga, sosaku hanga, and modern artists are included.

Modern Japanese Prints, 1912-1989
by Lawrence Smith
1994, British Museum Press, ~150 pp.

This highly recommended book covers another exhibition at the British Museum, of 140 Japanese prints of the 20th century. The illustrations are all high-quality color plates. There is a short background essay by Smith, followed by detailed biographies of all of the artists in the exhibition. There are also individual descriptions of each color plate. Highly informative overall.

The female image: 20th century prints of Japanese beauties
Essays by Shinji Hamanaka and Amy Reigle Newland
2000, Hotei Publishing, Netherlands. 215 pp.

This beautifully produced hardcover book is a comprehensive survey of the genre of bijin-ga ("prints of beautiful women") produced in the shin hanga tradition of the early 20th century. It is a bilingual (English/Japanese) publication, lavishly illustrated with 264 color illustrations from Japanese, European and American public and private collections. It includes prints by major artists such as Hashiguchi Goyo, Torii Kotondo, and Ito Shinsui, as well as examples from more obscure print designers of the period.

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