Watanabe's work is associated with the Japanese Folk Art movement that developed in the 1920s and 1930s to encourage the preservation and appreciation of Japan's craft and folklore traditions, which were admired for their unpretentious honesty of purpose. Watanabe used crumpled, handmade paper (commonly used for book covers and endpapers) for his childlike images, which emphasizes their handcrafted quality and adds texture to the broad, flat areas of stenciled color. He was a converted Christian, and although many of his subjects are taken from the Old and New Testaments, his technique is entirely Japanese and his figural style is very close to the popular Buddhist prints of earlier periods.
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