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Fumio Kitaoka
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Artist of Sosaku Hanga, born in Tokyo, studied in Paris, lives in Tokyo. Kitaoka learned woodblock printing from Hiratsuka Unichi and Onichi Koshiro. Through the influence of Hiratsuka, he obtained a teaching position in Manchuria in 1945. It was during this period of repatriation that he adopted a Chinese- influenced social-realist style to relate his experiences. During 1955-56 when Kitaoka studied woodblock printing at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he exhibited Western influences. He is credited with formulating some of the key tenets of the sosaku hanga movement upon his return to Japan when he promoted Japanese aspects of woodblock printing. Volk, Alicia. MADE IN JAPAN The Postwar Creative Print Movement. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum in association with University of Washington Press, 2005, p. 110. (hgs 10/7/08) 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.  DDT Before Disembarkation (joriku mae no DDT) 1947 From the series Journey to Native Country (Sokoku e no tabi) 10.3 x 13.1cm "Journey to Native Country exposes the complete chaos caused by the collapse of Japanese colonial rule... [T]he artist finally arrives on Japanese soil but is subjected to a dehumanizing fumigation, as a DDT sprayer is fired directly onto his chest."1 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 print Around 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 and Picasso.  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.