ONCHI Koshiro. [A BUILDING ON THE SHORE OF A POND] Oil on canvas, 33 x 45 cm. Dated "März 1921," with the word "Formasa" (i.e. Formosa), in pencil in the bottom right corner. It is unsigned; but its authenticity is attested to by Onchi's eldest son, Kunio, on a slip affixed on the reverse of the canvas, with his personal seal.


Onchi is a renowned artist, primarily remembered as a printmaker, as the most important figure of the "Sosaku Hanga" movement, a poet, and book designer. Yet early in his career he received formal instruction in Western art, beginning in 1909, when he joined the Hakuba-kai (White Horse Society) and the oil painting curriculum at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts a year later. Onchi's knowledge of German, acquired earlier in his education when he attended the the Doitsu kyôkai chûgakkô (German Cooperative Middle School), may have given him access to early twentieth century German art. He acknowledged a special sympathy with contemporary German art and specifically cited the influence on his work of Edvard Munch and Wassily Kandinsky, artists in the German milieu who gave color and form emotional and evocative values. Despite his interest in Western art, Onchi never traveled to Europe or the United States, content to acquaint himself with contemporary developments through illustrations in books and magazines and Tokyo exhibitions of European art.

This painting is a result of one of only two trips abroad taken by Onchi. It is from his first trip in 1920, when he visited his older sister and her husband in Taiwan, known then as Formosa and a Japanese possession. (Two other oil sketches he made on this trip are the basis of two wood-block prints from the 1930s, "The Side Gate of the Confucian Temple in Taiwan" and "East Gate of Taipei.") The painting is a loose network of fluid brush strokes in natural colors with blank areas of canvas and the weave of the cloth still showing. Onchi's oil paintings are seldom seen outside of museum collections, and then, mostly through reproductions, and rarely appear on the market. The date of 1921 on this painting establishes it as a late oil painting by Onchi because, with the exception of a large nude done in 1937, no records exist of other oils by him after the early 1920s.

Reference: The Graphic Art of Onchi Koshiro, by E. Swinton.


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