Shin hanga, which means new prints, was an art movement in the early 20th century Japan, during the Taishō (1912 – 26) and Shōwa (1926 – 89) periods. The movement flourished from around 1915 to 1942, though it resumed briefly from 1946 through the 1950s.
Towards the End of the Meiji period (1868 – 1912) ukiyo-e after Kobayashi Kiyochika gradually declined. The shin hanga printmakers revitalized the focus on the old fashioned technique of woodblock printing and worked within the traditional ukiyo-e framework based on the routine that evolved during Edo- and Meiji periods (17th–19th century): the artist was designing the prints, which got then passed on to carvers and printers, employed by a print publisher. The most commonly known publisher of shin hanga prints was Watanabe Shozaburo.
Western influence in Japanese woodblock prints
Inspired by European Impressionism, the shin hanga artists combined Western elements such as the effects of light and the expression of individual moods, but focused strictly on the traditional topics like landscapes (fukeiga), famous places (meishō), beautiful women (bijin ga), kabuki actors (yakusha-e), and birds and flowers (kachō-e). Naturalistic light, shade, textures and perspective have been added to show the tranquillity of human-nature coexistence. Seasons (for example early spring, midsummer and cherry blossom), the time of day (full moon, morning mist) and weather conditions (temple in snow or after rain) also set the prints to a specific time of day and year.
The artists of the shin hanga movemet
The shin hanga movement included several artists, each known for their favourite subject: Hashiguchi Goyo for his portraits of women, Ito Shinsui for his portraits of women and landscapes, Yamamura Koka and Ōhta Masamitsu for their portraits of Kabuki actors, Ohara Koson for his prints of birds, Kawarazaki Shôdô for his prints of flowers and Kawase Hasui and Hiroshi Yoshida for their landscapes. Kawase Hasui and Hiroshi Yoshida probably have been the two most popular shing hanga artists who focused on urban or rural landscapes.