Watanabe Mokuhan Bujitsu Gahō (渡邊木版美術画舗) (publisher 1906)

Shōbidō (firm name from 1906-08 - 尚美堂)
Watanabe Hangaten (firm name from 1909 - 渡辺版画店)
Ukiyo-e Kenkyūkai (firm name 1922-23 - 浮世絵研究会)
Watanabe Shōzaburō (family name - 渡邊庄三郎)


Hanga Gallery


Watanabe Shōzaburō (渡辺庄三郎) was born on June 2, 1885 and died on February 14, 1962.

Artists published by this house (Marks 576) include Ishiwata Kōitsu, Itō Takashi, Shirō, Hasui, Oda Kazuma, Hiroaki, Tsuchiya Kōitsu, Uehara Konen, Yoshida Hiroshi, Goyō, Hakuhō, Shinsui, Kōka, Natori Shunsen, Sōzan, Koson and Ueno Tadamasa.

This house also offered modern reproductions of works by Harunobu, Hiroshige, Hokusai and Utamaro.

Artists in the Lyon Collection who have been published by this house are highlighted in bold type.


Watanabe Shōzaburō... was a Japanese print publisher and the driving force behind the Japanese printmaking movement known as shin-hanga ("new prints"). He started his career working for the export company of Kobayashi Bunshichi, which gave him an opportunity to learn about exporting art prints. In 1908, Watanabe married Chiyo, a daughter of the woodblock carver Chikamatsu.

Watanabe employed highly skilled carvers and printers, and commissioned artists to design prints that combined traditional Japanese techniques with elements of contemporary Western painting, such as perspective and shadows. Watanabe coined the term shin-hanga in 1915 to describe such prints. Charles W. Bartlett, Hashiguchi Goyō, Kawase Hasui, Yoshida Hiroshi, Kasamatsu Shirō, Torii Kōtondō, Ohara Koson (Shōson), Terashima Shimei, Itō Shinsui, Takahashi Shōtei (Hiroaki) and Yamakawa Shuho are among the artists whose works he published.

Much of his company's stockpile of both prints and their original printing-blocks was destroyed in the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923. In the following years, new versions of many of these prints were created, using re-carved blocks; typically, the re-issued "post-quake" prints included changes/revisions in the design.

Watanabe exported most of his shin-hanga prints to the United States and Europe due to a lack of Japanese interest. After the close of World War II, his heirs continued the business, which still operates.

Wikipedia was the source of much of this material.


"The scale of Watanabe's early publications was considerable: from 1906 until the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1 September 1923 he produced some two hundred and fifty designs in various formats by Hiroaki alone.? The term coined to describe these works was shinsaku hanga, or 'newly made prints'. According to Watanabe they depicted the Japanese landscape as known in Edo-period prints and were visibly influenced by Hiroshige. Imbued with realism, however shinsaku hanga went beyond traditional ukiyo-e and its typically strong contour lines. Watanabe considered them 'new' but he clearly classified them as tourist prints and therefore they fell short of his ideal image of the 'new prints' (shinhanga) that he would later realise. Like his mentor Bunshichi,Watanabe recognised the importance of an international retailnetwork. He entered into a lasting business relationship with the Yamanaka & Co. (est. in New York in 1894, in Boston in 1899 and in London from 1900), providing fine ukiyo-e and later shin hanga.

Encouraged by the marketing success of his shinsaku hanga,Watanabe established the Watanabe Mokuhangaho (Watanabe Woodblock Print Shop) in Tokyo's Kyobashi district in 1909... He continued his lucrative output of new designs while also re-issuing old masters, as seen in newspaper promotions of the period for compilations such as the Ukiyo-e hanga kessakushii (Collections of masterpieces of ukiyo-e, 1916)."

Quoted from: 'Waves of Renewal, Modern Japanese Prints 1900-60: Selections from the Nihon no Hanga Collection, Amsterdam'.

"...it was Watanabe's wilful personality and the uninterrupted operation of the company under Watanabe, his son Tadasu (1908-1993) and today his grandson Shoichiro that has secured the place of the Watanabe firm as the most significant force in shin hanga." (Ibid.)

"Watanabe's success was indebted to the business model forged by his mentor Kobayashi Bunshichi - in other words, an astute combination of dealing in older ukiyo-e imagery, issuing reproductions and promoting new work. Moreover, Watanabe recognised the potential of the export market and the importance of a foreign clientele, and he was able to operate within an internationally oriented, competitive community of dealers and collectors. His ability to weather the devastation of the Great Kanto Earthquake and the aerial bombings of 1944/1945 was due to a solid business acumen that did not rely solely on the creation of shin hanga. It was, in fact, more encompassing, depending as it did then and even today on the sale of original ukiyo-e, the making of shinsaku hanga for small-size items such as calendars, menus and Christmas cards, facsimiles and shin hanga. (Ibid.)


Allen Hockley wrote in an essay, 'Shin Hanga and the Persistence of Edo Culture' in The Women of Shin Hanga... (p. 5): "By the early twentieth century, the demand for ukiyo-e among European and American collectors was rapidly depleting the supply of readily available originals. A numer of publishers, Watanabe among them, attempted to fill this void with high-quality reproductions."