Anonymous gift in memory of Paul O. Cartun 1960.122
This modest print marks the beginning of the sosaku-hanga movement which encouraged artists to carve and print woodblocks themselves. Fisherman, featured in the art and literary magazine Myojo (Morning Star) in 1904, accompanied an article describing Yamamoto’s revolutionary defiance of
the traditional separation between the originator of the design and the artisans who execute the print, elevating woodcuts to the level of fine art. The print is also unmistakably modern in the simple, poignant depiction of the old man of the sea and in the artist’s deliberate retention of traces left by the
gouge that cut the block.
From the mid 19th century, when European and American artists first discovered ukiyo-e prints, Japanese pictorial conventions had a major influence on Western art. In the same way, when American navel officer Matthew Perry arrived in Japan in 1853, ending the island’s two hundred
years of seclusion, Japanese artists began to emulate aspects of European art. Yamamoto was impacted by British printmaker William Nicholson, who in turn had derived his bold style of a flat figure against an unmodulated background from Japanese woodcuts.
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