Horvat Collection: Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints

Modern Japanese prints – postcards mailed from a forgotten past

Every art collection reflects the tastes of its owner. My collection at first glance may appear to be disorganized. Modern city scenes are interspersed with portraits of women, many wearing Japanese kimono. While most prints focus on Japanese subject matter, a good many are from Japan’s once vast empire. These last prints are like postcards mailed from a forgotten past. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that most of my collection consists of prints produced between 1918 and 1941, the era that I cover in the history course I teach at JIU. In the scenes of Japan, we see cars, subways and concrete buildings while pictures of the colonies depict people in traditional dress walking past ancient buildings in quiet, bucolic surroundings.

Even prints that hardly merit our attention as works of art today convey feelings and attitudes from a distant past in an honest and candid manner. This is particularly true of Japanese woodblock prints which were not originally treated as art but rather as a form of information exchange, a precursor of today’s news media. In the Edo Period (1600-1868) prints were bought as souvenirs to be taken home to relatives and friends as a record of a pilgrimage to the Ise Shrine or a visit to Edo. Although twentieth century print-making had changed somewhat from traditional times, the prints of the interwar era stuck to traditional subject matter: impressive architecture, beautiful women, bucolic scenery and important events. Thanks to this reportorial aspect of the genre, many prints depict the Japanese Empire as considerably more cosmopolitan than we imagine today. Several of the prints on display are the work of French artist, Paul Jacoulet, one of several foreign print makers active in the Japanese print genre at the time. We see some excellent monochrome scenes of Korea by Hiratsuka Un’ichi one of many Japanese artists to tour the colonies at that time. A visit to a woodblock print shop fills in the pages missing from our history textbooks.

2018  Andrew Horvat

Kawase Hasui,“Twenty Views of Tokyo: Shin-Ohashi Bridge,”

Kawase Hasui
“Twenty Views of Tokyo: Shin-Ohashi Bridge,”
1926, 38.6×25.9 cm

Koizumi Kishio,“One Hundred Pictures of Great Tokyo in the Showa Period:Scene 3, Mitsui Bank and Mitsukoshi Department Store,”

Koizumi Kishio
“One Hundred Pictures of Great Tokyo in the Showa Period: Scene 3, Mitsui Bank and Mitsukoshi Department Store,” 
1929, 39.4×30.1 cm

Paul Jacoulet,“Genre Prints from Around the World: A Parisian Lady,

Paul Jacoulet
“Genre Prints from Around the World: A Parisian Lady,”
1934, 49.0×37.1 cm


Gallery Talk by Prof. Andrew Horvat

10/11 thu. 13:00-

Gallery Talk by Curator

10/20 sat. 10/27 sat. 13:30-



Sundays (except Nov.4), Mondays and Nov.6

300 yen (free for high school students and under)

●By train: take either the JR Sotobō Line to Ōami Station or the JR Sōbu Main Line to Narutō Station; change trains and take the JR Tōgane Line; get off at Gumyō Station; 5 minutes walk to the university
●By car: take either the Keiyō Highway or the Tateyama Expressway to the Chiba-higashi Junction; from there, enter the Tōgane Toll Road; exit at Tōgane and take National Highway (Route) 126 in the direction of Narutō for about 20 minutes; at the signal at Josai International University Mae, turn right
●Shuttle Bus Service Available from: JR Tokyo Station, JR Yokohama Station, JR Nishifunabashi Station; JR Kisarazu Station, JR Chiba Station, JR Soga Station, JR Ōami Station, JR Narutō Station, JR Tōgane Station, Keisei Narita Station



Mizuta Museum of Art, Josai International University
1 Gumyō, Tōgane-shi, Chiba 283-8555, Japan
Tel. 0475-53-2562
Mizuta Museum of Art, Josai International University

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