Munakata

Shiko Munakata

1903-1975

Two Bodhisattvas and Ten Great Disciples of Sakyamuni: Ananda, Master of Memory and Learning
(Ni bosatsu shaka judai deshi: Ananda no saku)

sumizuri-e with artist's red Muna seal at lower left margin, signed and dated in penciled kanji, Shiko, and penciled English, Munakata, 1958, with artist's pine needle symbol, 1958

16 5/8 by 11 3/4 in., 42.2 by 30 cm

In 1939, Munakata produced a series of ten large-scale (each almost 1 meter high) woodblock prints depicting the ten disciples of the Buddha. He was inspired by a visit to the Tokyo National Museum where he saw a statue of the Buddha's disciple Subhuti. According to Munakata, he was not trying to represent the disciples literally, only to capture a range of expressions and later he named each figure as an afterthought. Ananda (or 'Joy'), Master of Memory and Learning, was the most learned of the disciples who remembered his teachings and compiled the earliest sutras. He later supplemented the ten blocks with two Bodhisattvas in order to comprise a traditional set of twelve which could be presented on a pair of six-panel folding screens. The following year the set won a prize at the Kokugakai (National Art Academy) Exhibition, and in the mid-1950s they took top prizes for printmaking at both the Sao Paulo (1955) and Venice (1956) Biennales. The original set of ten blocks survived the war because Munakata used them to line his air raid shelter, but the blocks for the two Bodhisattvas were lost when his home was destroyed and had to be recarved in 1948.

Munakata was never particularly concerned about limiting the production of his prints. To him, the creative process was initially in the carving, and then the printing brought the images to life. He did not hesitate to make changes to the blocks as he was printing and he would continue to print an image as it suited him. It seems that the earliest printings of the series were not dated, but later impressions are dated as he produced them in 1950-60s. This half-scale version of Ananda, bearing his pencil signature and seal, was likely produced for an album or portfolio, indeed it was located in an estate with other Munakata prints produced on the same size paper.

References:
Japanese Folk Crafts Museum and Ohara Museum of Art, Munakata Shiko, Nishitoba Seihan Insatsujo, Japan, 1970, no. 18
Joan S. Baker, Mokuhan: The Woodcuts of Munakata & Matsubara, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, British Columbia, 1976, no. 20
The Complete Works of Shiko Munakata, Vol. 2, The World of the Gods (1), Kodansha, 1978, no. 64
Oliver Statler, The Woodblock and the Artist: The Life and Work of Shiko Munakata, 1991, pp. 65-71 (1939 set)
Jennifer Boynton and Kakeya Kiyoko, Munakata Shiko: Japanese Master of the Modern Print, Munakata Museum, Kamakura, Japan, 2002, p. 66 no. 5 (includes all prints from the series)
Art Institute of Chicago (artic.edu), reference no. 1963.646 (dated 1959)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (ngv.vic.gov.au), accession no. P38-1969 (attributed to ca. 1939)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, (metmuseum.org), accession no. 2017.245.5 (dated 1960)
(inv. no. 10-5124)

price: $6,500

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