The Rooftops of Junichiro Sekino
35° 40′ 15″ N, 139° 46′ 19″ E
Junichiro Sekino was a Japanese artist very versatile who was always exploring new techniques and subjects. He created a series on rooftops, representing them in unusual and very elaborate compositions, painting a true testimony of traditional Japanese architecture.
A proud representative of the sōsaku-hanga
Junichiro Sekino (1914-1988) was a Japanese artist who distinguished himself for his ability to mix Eastern and Western styles and techniques in his paintings. He was also a printmaker who knew how to diversify the subjects, representing geishas and kabuki actors as well as the city or natural landscapes. As a student of Kōshirō Onchi, he flourished in the sōsaku-hanga (creative print) movement. This Japanese artistic movement, born at the beginning of the 20th century, continued the production of Japanese ukiyo-e prints, but moved away from its traditional artisanal conception. The print is no longer the result of a cooperation between the designer, the engraver and the printer; the artist now masters the entire process. In addition, the artist now has greater freedom of expression in his choice of subjects.
The war years from 1939 to 1945 were a crucial period for the sōsaku-hanga movement with the creation of the company Ichimokukai (First Thursday Society). This group was created in 1939 by Kōshirō Onchi in Tokyo, and used to meet once a month to discuss about prints of the movement. The first members were Yamaguchi Gen and Junichiro Sekino. They popularized in the sōsaku-hanga movement the appearance of Western reproduction techniques such as lithography, silkscreen or etching. This helped to revive Western interest in Japanese prints, and to catalog, support and disseminate the works of the movement inside and outside Japan, after the war.
An unprecedented composition of roofs
It is in Tokyo that Junichiro Sekino began its woodblock printing production. His best-known work is his modern version of the Tokaidō gojyusan tsuki 東海道五十三次 (The Fifty-three stations of the Tokaido road) realized between 1959 and 1974. His versatility in his choice of subjects is a testament to his artistic curiosity, as well as his balanced technique. After World War II he began a series of traditional Japanese roof close-ups. It is a new way to test the limits of composition. This follows an abstract series on lines, forms, shapes, figures. In this series, he offers a new look on an architectural and traditional characteristic, the roof. In this study, Junichiro Sekino stands out for his mastery of color, perspective and composition and his ability to highlight a standard element of Japanese society. This series probably helped him to prepare Night in Tokyo (1980), a bird’s eye view of the roofs of the city, which is probably one of the most beautiful prints made in the second half of the 20th century.