Kitaoka Fumio 北岡文雄 (1918-2007)
and Revisiting Modern Japanese Prints: Selected Works from the Richard F. Grott Family
Collection, Helen M. Nagata, Helen Merritt, Northern Illinois University Art Museum, 2007, p.
93 and as footnoted.
Fumio Kitaoka (Tokyo, born,1918) is one of Japan's finest woodcut masters of the latter
twentieth century. He first studied printmaking techniques and drawing under Unichi
Hiratsuka (1895-1997) at the Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko. Graduating during the Second World
War, Kitaoka first taught art in Tokyo and in January 1945 was posted to a similar
position in occupied Manchuria. His experiences in China led to the social realist
series of 17 prints Journey to the Native Country (1947) chronicling his difficult repatriation to Japan.
After returning to Tokyo he attended the evening classes of one of Japan's most influential
woodblock artists, Koshiro Onchi (1891-1955) joining Onchi's First Thursday Society
and contributing prints to its publication Ichimokushū in 1947 and 1948. The following year Kitaoka created the series The Face of Tokyo, five portfolios of prints documenting the beginning resurgence of post-war Japan.
[See this collection's printAround Ochanomizu (Kanda River).] In 1955, Kitaoka moved to Paris to study wood engraving techniques
at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He was not interested in formal theories of art, but
he sought to understand the work of Western painters such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse
Upon returning to Japan in 1957, he firmly established himself as a contemporary master
of the woodblock. His woodblock art was almost immediately distinguished for his use
of perspective and receding space combined with the bold and almost sculptural effects
he achieved by printing his blocks under very high pressure. As one can see in Fishing Boat and Green Crow (left), this lends a powerful, almost three dimensional effect to foreground objects.
In the mid-60s, Kitaoka taught at the Minneapolis School of Art and at Pratt Graphic
Arts Center in New York.
For years, the woodcut art of Fumio Kitaoka has been the subject of many exhibitions
in Japan, America and Europe. Museums that list his woodcuts within their permanent
collections include, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston, The Art Institute of Chicago, the National Museum, Warsaw and the Japanese
Museum of Israel. Fumio Kitaoka has been named an honorary member of the Japan Print
association and has served as Director of the Japanese Artists Association.
He died of pneumonia on April 23 2007.