Woodblock Prints of Saitō Kiyoshi
January 28–July 16, 2023
With a career spanning six decades, Saitō Kiyoshi (1907–1997) was one of the most prolific Japanese artists of the twentieth century. Largely self-taught, he experimented with the expressive potential of woodblock printing, including the texture of the wood grain and effects from cutting and scratching the surface with knives and awls. He said, “I work to create painting without a brush, using the flat surface of the plate instead.” The range of subjects in his work varies—from landscapes and architecture to the human figure and cats—but there is always an element of abstraction, with the patterns, colors and textures being as much the focus as what is depicted.
Saitō was associated with the sōsaku-hanga (“creative prints”) movement, which promoted the printmaker as sole creator, handling all stages of the process—designing, carving and printing. This resulted in highly individualized artworks. After winning a top prize at the 1951 São Paulo Biennale, he became a representative of the movement and helped popularize sōsaku-hanga internationally. His works were especially admired by Americans traveling to Japan in the postwar years, such as Virginia W. Kettering, who collected all the prints on view in the exhibition.
Featured Image: Saitō Kiyoshi (Japanese, 1907–1997), Kinkaku-Ji, Kyoto, 1967, woodblock print, ink and color on paper. Gift of Mrs. Virginia W. Kettering, 1996.209