Tajima Hiroyuki (1911–1984) is widely regarded as an important sōsaku hanga (creative print) movement artist. Traditional Japanese woodblock prints were collaboratively produced by a team of skilled artisans directed by a publisher, but in sōsaku hanga the artist designed, carved and printed his creations by himself. The creative print movement was, in part, a response to Western ideas of originality and individual artistic expression.
Tajima’s method included the use of shellac, torn and crumpled papers, dyes and other materials in conjunction with wood blocks to create low reliefs and intricate surfaces upon which to print. This method, combined with suggestions of highlighting and modeling, makes his prints appear to take on three-dimensional qualities, although the print surface is completely flat. He used overprinting and techniques of dye resist, producing richly saturated colors with complex and textured effects that invite and reward close observation. His layered color combinations make his prints glow as if illuminated from behind, resulting in great visual depth and instilling his works with a mood of mystery and quiet beauty.
Tajima was born in Tokyo and graduated from Nihon University in 1932, and from the Western-style painting division of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1943. He created his first print in 1946, and joined the Bijutsu Bunka Kyokai (a group of abstract and surrealist artists) the same year. He studied printmaking under Nagase Yoshio (1891–1978), an artist of the sosaku hanga school, and fabric dyeing with Hirokawa Matsugorō (1889–1952). He also made landscape prints under the name of Nagai Kiyoshi.
Image credit: Tajima Hiroyuku, Japanese, 1911-1984. Chiizuroune, 1962, wood block print. Gift of Toshie Tajima