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Inagaki Tomoo (1902-1980)

Prints in Collection

Peaches, 1925
IHL Cat. #1620

IHL Cat. #1662

Biographical Data


Inagaki Tomoo 稲垣知雄 ながとろ (1902-1980)
Sources: Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989, Lawrence Smith, British Museum Press, 1994, p. 25; Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn, Oliver Statler, Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1956, p. 164-165; Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975, Helen Merritt, University of Hawaii Press, 1992, p. 41; website of John Fiorillo http://viewingjapaneseprints.net/texts/sosakutexts/sosaku_pages/inagaki_tomoo.html and as footnoted.


Born in Tokyo, Tomoo graduated from Okura Commercial High School in 1923. While in high school he began painting in oils. After graduation he worked for a steel company, but he soon realized that his destiny was to be an artist and enrolled in a two year commercial art school. Upon graduation he worked in the display department of a Yokohama store for several months before setting up his own commercial art studio in Tokyo.

For his start in prints Tomoo credits the magazine Shi to Hanga ["Poetry and Prints"], published in the early 1920s by the two most prominent sosaku hanga artists Onchi Kōshirō (1891-1955) and Hiratsuka Un'ichi (1895-1997). After one of his prints was accepted for publication in 1924, Tomoo was allowed to attend meetings of the Shi to Hanga group “in which the editors and contributors discussed common problems and criticized each other’s work.” Tomoo credits these meetings 

as his "only training in woodblock." Now dedicated to print making, Tomoo had his prints published in various small print magazines and folios, including HANGA (“Prints”) issues 6, 9/10, 11 and 14, Kitsutsuki (“Woodpecker”) and Ichimokushū ("First Thursday Collection"). Also in 1924 he first exhibited with the Nihon Sōsaku Hanga Kyōkai (Japan Creative Print Association). In 1932 he became of member of the Nihon Hanga Kōkai (Japan Print Association).

As with most print artists Tomoo was not able to make a living solely from print making and worked as a teacher, teaching at the Commercial Artists Association School from 1930 until 1951 and then the Japan Advertising Art School, and as a freelance designer, operating his own design business Zuhansha1 until WWII.

Cat Making-Up, 1955
Image: 23 5/8 x 17 1/8 in. (60.0 x 43.5 cm)
Paper: 24 1/2 x 18 1/4 in. (61.6 x 46.4 cm)

Best known for his stylized modernist prints of cats, the first of which date to 1951, Tomoo’s earlier works included landscapes, townscapes and still life, examples of which are shown below. 

In discussing his work in 1956, the artist told Oliver Statler “I like some qualities and reject others in Matisse and Piccaso, but, above all, I was influenced by Onchi and Hiratsuka.” In his carving, Tomoo chooses to use a wide range of chisels, with emphasis on the flat chisel. Due to post-war shortages of woodblock materials, Tomoo also created stencil prints for a while. 

After the war, Tomoo was able to dedicate his time to printmaking and exhibiting widely in international print exhibitions such as those held in Paris, Tokyo and Lugano.

Tomoo Inagaki passed away on May 14, 1980 at the Tokyo Women's Medical University Hospital from a brain tumor. 

Atami Hot Springs Resort, 1930
5.6 x 3.6 in. (14.2 x 9 .2 cm)
Source: Artelino

Nagatoro (Saitama), no. 38 from the series One Hundred Views of New Japan (Shin Nihon hyakkei), 1941
9.1 x 11.8 in. (23 x 30 cm)
Laboratory Still Life, 1949
24.6 x 18.4 in. (62.5 x 46.8 cm)
Source: Artelino

1953 Comments on the Artist by Onchi Kōshirō

In 1953, Onchi Kōshirō (1891-1955), one of the founders of the modern Japanese print movement (sosaku hanga), published the book Nippon Gendai Hanga ("The Modern Japanese Print.")  The below translation of his entry for Inagaki was published by The Japan Ukiyo-e Society in 1965 under the title "The Modern Japanese Print: An Internal History of the Sosaku Hanga Movement by Koshiro Onchi," in the magazine Ukiyo-e Art, Number Eleven, Special Issue, Modern Japanese Prints.  For the complete translation see the article The Modern Japanese Print: An Internal History of the Sosaku Hanga Movement by Onchi Kōshirō on this website.

New York Museum of Modern Art; Cincinnati Art Museum; Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo; Machida City Museum of Graphic Art, Tokyo; Chiba Prefectural Museum; Yokohama Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Carnegie Museum of Art; Art Institute of Chicago; Portland Art Museum; The British Museum; Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum; Honolulu Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama; The National Museum of Art, Osaka

Signatures and Seals

T. Inagaki with 知雄 Tomoo seal
 T. Inagaki 


Inagaki seal

Tomo seal

with "To" seal

To seal

To seal

To seal

1 Modern Boy, Modern Girl: Modernity in Japanese Art, 1910-1935, Ajioka Chiaki, Jackie Menzies, et al, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1998, p. 152.
2 website of the Independent Administrative Institution National Research Institute of Cultural Properties, Tokyo http://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/bukko/9971.html