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Stonemason, print number 13, from the series Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures, Series 2

Wada Sanzō (1883-1967)
 

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Stonemason

print number 13 from the series

Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures, Series 2

by Wada Sanzō, 1939-1941

Wada Sanzō (1883-1967)


IHL Cat. #2070

About This Print

A first edition of this print showing stonemasons at work by the original publisher Nishinomiya Shoin. At least three states of this print exist from the original publisher.  This print was re-issued by the publisher Kyoto Hangain after the war. 

Artist's Commentary from the First Edition

[First Edition, 1939-1941, published by Nishinomiya Shoin]
[Translation taken from 
Memories of Shōwa: Impressions of Working Life by Wada Sanzō,
Maureen de Vries and Daphne van der Molen, Nihon no hanga, 2021, p. 54.]


The Stonemason

It is aid that in the capital stone masons are in high demand for tombstones and other stone monuments.


As for the kinds of raw material in Tokyo, it seems that average quality products come from Ibaraki, Gunma and Sagami in the Kantō region, and excellent quality granite comes from the Okayama region. For superior red granite one should rely on Nara Prefecture.


We ordinary people would worry about how we would be able to handle such heavy objects, but because they do it professionally stone do it with unexpected ease.


Nowadays the apprenticeship system is hardly used anymore, during which seven or eight years are focused on handling the stones, and the following two or three are spent learning how to polish. Only after that the apprentice starts practicing engraving and finally immerses himself completely in the study of calligraphy and its forms and elegance.



Two Additional Early States from Nishinomiya Shoin

note different positions of signatures and seals
click on image to enlarge

About the Series "Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures"
Sources: website of Ross Walker Ohmi Gallery http://www.ohmigallery.com/DB/Artists/Sales/Wada_Sanzo.asp  and website of USC Pacific Asian Museum "Exhibition - The Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures: The Woodblock Prints of Wada Sanzō" 

Note: 
My special thanks to Shinagawa Daiwa, the current owner of Kyoto Hangain, for providing the below information (in a series of emails in July 2014) about Nishinomiya Shoin and Kyoto Hangain, both businesses started by his father Shinagawa Kyoomi.  Shinagawa's current website can be accessed at http://www.amy.hi-ho.ne.jp/kyotohangain/

Wada’s major contribution as a woodblock print artist came through his 72 print 3-part series Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures (Shōwa shokugyō e-zukishi), also translated as Occupations of the Shōwa Era in Pictures and Japanese Vocations in Pictures. The three part series was started during the Pacific War (1937-1945) in September 1938, was then interrupted by war shortages in 1943, and was restarted again after the war in January 1954. This series was a labor of love for Wada and he brought together woodblock print printers and carvers in Nishimomiya near Kobe to work on this project

The war era prints were published by Wada through an old books store, Nishinomiya shoin 西宮書院 run by Shinagawa Kyoomi 
品川清臣.  Wada
 planned a total of 100 designs, with two prints being issued each month. Wada's designs for the prints were rendered in watercolor and the finished prints beautifully captured the look-and-feel of those original watercolors. The series was an immediate hit, but was suspended after 48 prints (issued in two series) in 1943 due to war shortages.

After the war, the series was continued by the same publisher, Shinagawa Kyoomi, who had opened a new business in Kyoto, which he named Kyoto Hangain 京都版画院.  (Shingawa's business in Nishinomiya had burned down during WWII.) At first Kyoto Hangain published re-prints of the earlier prints, but they went on to publish a third series of 24 prints, working closely with Wada, titled Continuing Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures between November 1954 and September 1956. The post-war prints were popular with the Occupation's "deep-pocketed" military and civilian personnel and the series was "featured in an article of the Tokyo edition of the United States military newspaper Stars and Stripes."2 Shinagawa also published a six print portfolio in the 1950s titled Japanese Life and Customs, consisting of six of the prints from the earlier two series in a reduced chuban size, which is also part of this collection.

Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures has been praised for showing “the complexity of Shōwa society…. capture[ing] the pulse of Japanese life during the tumultuous decades of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s”and condemned as providing a “visual message of subtle or blatant propaganda in support of government-sponsored ideas.”4 

It is interesting to see how the commentary, written by the artist, that accompanied each print in the pre-war releases was softened for the post-war re-issues by Kyoto Hangain.  All references to soldiers being away from home (as Japanese armies were marching through Asia when the series was originally released) or references to Imperial Japan have been stripped away and the commentary becomes innocent, folk-like and appealing to the post-war occupying forces.  (For example, see the prints Women Weavers and Picture Card Show which provide the artist's original commentary and a full transcript of the English text attached to the folders of the post-war re-issued prints.)

1 Keizaburo Yamaguchi gives the publication dates of the post-War series as January 1954 through autumn 1958. (Ukiyo-e Art 16, 1967): 39-42. 
2 "Out of the Dark Valley: Japanese Woodblock Prints and War, 1937-1945," Kendall H. Brown,p. 82 appearing in Impressions, The Journal of the Ukiyo-e Society of America, Inc., Number 23, 2001.
Pacific Asia Museum website http://www.pacificasiamuseum.org/_on_view/exhibitions/2004/occshowa.aspx 
4 Light in Darkness: Women in Japanese Prints of Early Shōwa (1926-1945), Kendall H. Brown, et. al., Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California, 1996, p. 18.


Print Details
 IHL Catalog  #2070
 Title/Description  石工 - Stonemason [number 13]
 Series  Occupations of Shōwa Japan in Pictures, Series 2 (also seen translated as "Compendium of Occupations in the Shōwa Era" and "Japanese Vocations in Pictures")
Shōwa shokugyō e-zukushi 昭和職業繪盡 (also seen written as 昭和職業絵尽し and
昭和職業) dainishū (第輯)  (series name is printed in lower left margin)
 Artist 
 Wada Sanzō (1883-1967)
 Signature 
三造 Sanzō
 Seal
三 造 San and zō
 Publication Date  1939-1941
 Publisher
seal of Nishinomiya Shoin 
西宮書院
 Edition  first edition
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  good - light toning and foxing
 Genre  shin hanga
 Miscellaneous  originally released by Nishinomiya Shoin as print number 13 in series 2
 Format  dai-oban
 H x W Paper  11 5/16 x 15 1/8 in. (28.7 x 38.4 cm) 
 H x W Image  10 3/4 x 14 1/2 in. (27.3 x 36.8 cm)
 Collections This Print  Himeji City Museum of Art Ⅲ-184-13 (dated "1939~1940年"); Artizon Museum, Ishibashi Foundation 20980
 Reference Literature  Memories of Shōwa: Impressions of Working Life by Wada Sanzō, Maureen de Vries and Daphne van der Molen, Nihon no hanga, 2021
last revision:
8/9/2021
6/1/2021 created
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