ONCHI Koshiro. [A GROVE OF TREES] Oil on canvas, 45 x 33 cm. It is from a series of landscapes done in 1921. 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 loose network of fluid, rhythmic brush strokes in greens and earth tones with blank areas of canvas and the weave of the cloth still showing. It shows, perhaps, the influence of landscapes by Max Liebermann and Lovis Corinth, or even Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Onchi's oil paintings are seldom seen outside of museum collections, and then, mostly through reproductions, and rarely appear on the market. The 1921 date of 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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