Umbrellas (Hokusai).jpg
Umbrellas (Hokusai).jpg

Umbrellas

1915

This is thought to be the first of twelve designs produced by the publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō and the Austrian painter Friedrich (Fritz) Capelari in 1915, marking the beginning of the shin hanga movement. After seeing an exhibition of Capelari’s subtle, romanticized watercolors of scenic views and local people—inspired by the artist’s time in China, Java, and Japan—Watanabe felt Capelari would be the ideal collaborator on a new type of print, featuring Japan’s modern character in a way that appealed to foreign tourists.

About shin hanga movement

In the spring of 1915, the publisher Watanabe Shôzaburô (1885-1962) saw an exhibition of watercolors at a department store gallery by Fritz Capelari, an Austrian artist who had been living in Asia since 1911. Watanabe had been looking for an artist trained in Western-style painting with whom he could work on a new type of color woodblock print, but rooted in the traditions of Japanese ukiyo-e. Apparently he had already been turned down by Japanese artists, such as the Paris-trained painter Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924), who were not interested sullying their reputations in the 'fine art' world by producing popular or decorative art. Foreigners in Japan would have been less burdened by the commercial implications of Watanabe's vision and had little to risk by participating in his experiment. Capelari accepted an invitation from Watanabe to visit his shop and shortly thereafter the two began collaborating on producing woodblock prints. Within one year they completed 12 designs which included landscapes and figural prints.

To some, these prints could be considered the first shin-hanga ('new prints'). Certainly it was the first time that Watanabe successfully recruited an artist from outside the traditional master-student system. And although many of the designs and subjects resonate with classic ukiyo-e, at the same time, the modern (or Western) influences are evident. Watanabe also used a higher quality paper that he had rarely used for his previous print productions.