Home‎ > ‎Artists‎ > ‎

Uchima, Ansei (1921-2000)

Prints in Collection

Biographical Data

photo of artist (undated)


Ansei Uchima 内間安瑆* (American, 1921–2000)
Source: New York Public Library Prints website http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/spe/art/print/exhibits/pressure/

Thework of Ansei Uchima reflects a complex fusion of Western and Easternartistic traditions. Born in California, Uchima returned to Japan atage nineteen, and after World War II studied painting and traditionalJapanese printmaking. Through his job as translator for Oliver Statler,an American print collector, who was interviewing artists for a book oncontemporary Japanese prints, he was introduced to the sosaku hanga(creative print) movement, which incorporated a Western modernistaesthetic. Like other artists in the sosaku hanga school, Uchimacarved, inked, and printed his own wood blocks, enjoying the accidentsand unexpected opportunities that arose spontaneously from interactionwith the wood block. His first prints, beginning in 1957, drew fromnature and the world around him. After he returned to the United Statesin 1959, his floating, calligraphic compositions, characteristic ofsosaku hanga, suggested the growing influence of AbstractExpressionism. Uchima used Japanese paper made especially for him by aJapanese master papermaker and National Treasure, Ichibei Iwano.
* also seen as 内間安セイ(王星) and 内間安王星

Source: Asian Traditions Modern Expressions, Asian American Artists and Abstraction 1945-1970, Jeffrey Wechsler, HarryN. Abrams, Inc., 1977, p. 177-178
Ansei Uchima – Born 1921, Stockton, California; lives in New York, New York

Uchima,the son of Japanese immigrants, grew up in Los Angeles.  In 1940, inaccordance with his father’s wishes, he went to Tokyo to studyarchitecture at Waseda University.  When Japan entered World War II oneyear later, Uchima was cut off from home.  He soon gravitated to thestudy of painting, which he pursued under the tutelage of Japanesemasters and later on his own.  His paintings won awards at the JiyoBijutsu Art Association annual exhibitions in 1953 and 1954.  Uchimabegan to experiment with printmaking in Japan in 1957, and his work wasimmediately successful with collectors in Japan and abroad.  That sameyear he shared an exhibition at the Yoseido Gallery in Tokyo with thesculptor Masayuki Nagare and showed his woodcuts in the TokyoInternational Print Triennials in 1957 and 1960.  In 1950 he returnedto the United States with his family and two years later began teachingat Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York.  After twenty yearsof teaching, he was named professor emeritus in 1988.  In 1967 hebecame an adjunct professor of printmaking at Columbia University. Besides having over forty one-person exhibitions in the United Statesand Japan, he has also been included in numerous group exhibitionsworldwide. 

Uchima studied painting in oils, but since his involvement with the traditional woodblock method of ukiyo-e while he was in Japan, using sumiand tube watercolors, he has mainly worked in woodblock printing.  Dueto certain circumstances of the artist’s life, in particular his longresidence in Japan during his artistic formative years, Uchima’s oeuvrerepresents an especially coherent example of the direct interaction ofmodern printmaking aesthetics in Japan and the United States.
Y. H. (Yuko Higa)

Friendship with Oliver Statler

Source: "Onchi Koshiro - Thoughts and Second Thoughts," Oliver Statler,  Prints of Onchi Koshiro, Keishosha Ltd., 1975.

 ...Uchima was at my side during all the interviews that went into making of my book Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn.

Uchima had a long relationship with Oliver Statler, who had a major role in promoting and supporting Japanese artists and their prints after WWII.  Ephemera from Statler's life, including cards and letters from Uchima to Statler can be found at the website of the Oliver Statler Collection, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Ansei Uchima and Oliver Statler (undated)
Oliver Statler Collection, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Katsu! is a print very similar in feel to the print in this collection Way for Hakone.
The revelatory nature of Zen thought is implied in his print Katsu!, titled after
the shout of Zen monks as they urge their students tospiritual discovery.  It
is spontaneous in its own right, with aconglomeration of irregular forms
pressed swiftly against the paper.


Source: Article of May 11, 2000, New York Times
UCHIMA-Ansei. On May 9, 2000, at age 79. Beloved husband of Toshiko, devoted father of Anju and Yoko, proud grandfather of Maya and Lenn, dear brother of Ansho and the late Kei, and Franklin. Esteemed woodblock print artist, painter and Fine Arts Professor. Emeritus Faculty Member at Sarah Lawrence College, where he taught from 1962 to 1982; taught also at Columbia University from 1968 to 1982. Recipient of Guggenheim Fellowships in 1962 and 1970. Work belongs to Permanent Collections of Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, National Gallery of Art, among many others. He was respected and cherished by all who knew him, and will be remembered in his exquisite, harmonic and vibrant prints and paintings.


Source: Asian Traditions Modern Expressions, Asian American Artists and Abstraction 1945-1970, Jeffrey Wechsle, HarryN. Abrams, Inc., 1977

Recent Exhibitions

click on image to enlarge