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Munakata Shiko (1903-1975), an artist admired throughout Europe, Asia and the United States, receives his first comprehensive retrospective outside Japan at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Munakata is celebrated as one of Japan's most significant modern print artists of the twentieth century. More than 100 prints from all phases of the artist’s career, along with a selection of his paintings, calligraphy, and ceramics, are on view.
Born the son of a blacksmith in the northern prefecture of Aomori in 1903, Munakata left in 1924 for Tokyo to pursue a career in art. While equally skilled as a painter in oils and sumi ink, Munakata first gained international acclaim through his woodcut prints, winning top prizes at the Sao Paulo Biennale in 1955 and the Venice Biennale of 1956. Munakata revolutionized the concept of the woodblock print, liberating it from the small-scale ukiyo-e format, and creating large-size pieces for screens and wall murals. He used nature, Buddhism, folk tales, contemporary poetry, even Western literature for his subjects, transforming them into his unique, dynamic woodcuts, ink paintings, calligraphies and ceramics.
On his first visit to the United States in 1959, Munakata worked with Philadelphia artist Arthur Flory to create his first series of lithographs, which will be shown only in Philadelphia. Munakata was a prolific artist who worked with legendary speed and spontaneity, celebrating the world around him.