Kitaoka Fumio 北岡文雄 (1918-2007)
Sources: http://www.cartage.org.lb/en/themes/biographies/MainBiographies/k/Kitaoka/kitaoka.htm and Revisiting Modern Japanese Prints: Selected Works from the Richard F. Grott Family Collection, Helen M. Nagata, Helen Merritt, Northern Illinois University Art Museum, 2007, p. 93 and as footnoted.
Fumio Kitaoka (Tokyo, born,1918) is one of Japan's finest woodcut masters of the latter twentieth century. He first studied printmaking techniques and drawing under Unichi Hiratsuka (1895-1997) at the Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko. Graduating during the Second World War, Kitaoka first taught art in Tokyo and in January 1945 was posted to a similar position in occupied Manchuria. His experiences in China led to the social realist series of 17 prints Journey to the Native Country (1947) chronicling his difficult repatriation to Japan.
After returning to Tokyo he attended the evening classes of one of Japan's most influential woodblock artists, Koshiro Onchi (1891-1955) joining Onchi's First Thursday Society and contributing prints to its publication Ichimokushū in 1947 and 1948. The following year Kitaoka created the series The Face of Tokyo, five portfolios of prints documenting the beginning resurgence of post-war Japan. [See this collection's printAround Ochanomizu (Kanda River).] In 1955, Kitaoka moved to Paris to study wood engraving techniques at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He was not interested in formal theories of art, but he sought to understand the work of Western painters such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso.
Upon returning to Japan in 1957, he firmly established himself as a contemporary master of the woodblock. His woodblock art was almost immediately distinguished for his use of perspective and receding space combined with the bold and almost sculptural effects he achieved by printing his blocks under very high pressure. As one can see in Fishing Boat and Green Crow (left), this lends a powerful, almost three dimensional effect to foreground objects.
In the mid-60s, Kitaoka taught at the Minneapolis School of Art and at Pratt Graphic Arts Center in New York.
For years, the woodcut art of Fumio Kitaoka has been the subject of many exhibitions in Japan, America and Europe. Museums that list his woodcuts within their permanent collections include, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Art Institute of Chicago, the National Museum, Warsaw and the Japanese Museum of Israel. Fumio Kitaoka has been named an honorary member of the Japan Print association and has served as Director of the Japanese Artists Association.
He died of pneumonia on April 23 2007.