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Ishiwata Koitsu


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Ishiwata Koitsu, the lesser known of the two print designers named 'Koitsu', is notable for his realistic portrayals of Japanese village life. Ishiwata was born in Shiba, Tokyo with the given name Ishiwata Shoichiro. He was no relation to the older Tsuchiya Koitsu who also worked as a woodblock artist in the 1930's. In his youth, Ishiwata studied textile design and Nihonga style painting with his brother-in-law, Igusa Senshin. His meeting with Kawase Hasui in 1917 stimulated his interest in designing woodblock prints.

Following the catastrophic 1923 earthquake, Ishiwata began his artistic career as a textile designer for the department store Nozawaya, located in the smaller city of Yokohama. The area around Yokohama would later become the subject of many of his landscape prints. Around 1930, Ishiwata left his successful design position to join the publishing studio of Watanabe Shozaburo. He studied print design with Kawase Hasui and, in 1931, Watanabe published Ishiwata's first series on village life. Unfortunately Ishiwata's designs were not very popular with Western customers, perhaps because they were darker and more realistic than the romantic ideals perpetuated by Hasui. Ishiwata's prints focused on ordinary activities like buying groceries or getting a haircut. He did not omit unpleasant details like dilapidated buildings or electrical poles.

In 1935, Ishiwata left Watanabe's studio to work with the publisher Kato Junji. He designed a series on Japanese toys (Omocha e shu) that year and a series on hot springs resorts (Onsen fukei) in 1940. In later works for Kato, he combined the use of woodblock and stencil techniques.

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