Home‎ > ‎Artists‎ > ‎

Takahashi Rikio (1917-1998)

Prints in Collection

Early Spring, 1963
IHL Cat. #200 

My Town, 1963
IHL Cat. #317

Musician Greenwich Village
Musician Greenwich Village, 1964
IHL Cat. #238

Musician Greenwich Village
Musician Greenwich Village, 1964
IHL Cat. #2240

Kyoto's Voice, 1964
IHL Cat. #239

IHL Cat. #287

Wind, 1964
IHL Cat. #422 

Nest, 1965 (lithographic print)
IHL Cat. #720

Tea Ceremony, 1965
IHL Cat. #218

Work A, 1966
IHL Cat. #189

IHL Cat. #190

NIWA (April)
IHL Cat. #1059

NIWA (Summer house)
IHL Cat. #1098

Good by Winter
Good by Winter, 1984
IHL Cat. #1060

NIWA (Nunnery)
NIWA (Nunnery), 1985
IHL Cat. #1692
Garden in Kyoto, 1986
IHL Cat. #607

Tokyo Tower from the series
One Hundred Views of Tokyo:
Message to the 21st Century, 1990
IHL Cat. #171  

Mt. Fuji Time 25, 1991
IHL Cat. #488  


Takahashi Rikio 高橋力雄 (1917-1998 December 23)
Source: John Fiorillo's website Viewing Japanese Prints and miscellaneous sources.
Rikio Takahashi specializedin depicting the forms of the Japanese garden, especially the classicgardens of  Kyoto. He was the son of a 'Nihonga' ("Japanese-stylepainting") artist and from 1949-1955 became an important pupil of theseminal figure in modern Japanese printmaking, Onchi Kōshirō (1891-1955),whose late non-representational style had a significant influence. Takahashi studied at the Chouinard Art Institute [later to become integrated into the California Institute of Arts] in 1962 and 1963 and returned to the United States several years later to work with Ken Tyler at Tyler's renowned Gemini print studio.  (See "Collaboration with Ken Tyler," below.)

Takahashiis one of the last true sōsaku hanga (creative print) artists. Hesuccessfully explored in an abstracted manner various forms found ingardens and nature. He is especially adept at the subtle partialoverlay of one or more colors to create varied opacities and texturesas well as complexity of shapes.

Many of his prints evoke anatmosphere of stillness and balance that have a sense of timelessness.Takahashi's prints vary in size, with some reaching roughly three feetin height.


Source: Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989, Lawrence Smith, The British Museum Press, 1994, p. 35-36 and Rikio Takahashi, The Woodblock Prints published by Abe Publishing LTD., 1998, p. 199-205.
Takahashi was born in in 1917 at Honjo Wakamiyacho, Tokyo.  His father Tarao was a Nihonga (Japanese style) painter, and his uncle was Imaizumi Toshiji, a Yoga (Western style) artist, from whom he first learned art.  He failed to graduate from middle school and at the age of 17 he was co-managing, with his father, the family's photographic studio.  In 1944 he married Sekino Shizu.  In that same year he was conscripted as a photographer by the Navy.  In 1945 his first daughter Setsuko was born, followed by his first son Mitsunori in 1946.

Takahashi quotes his artistic education as having taken place at the California Institute of Art in the 1960s, when he spent two years in the USA (1962-63).  By then, however, he had studied informally for six years (1949-55) with Onchi Kōshirō (1891-1955).  His early works are very close to Onchi's late abstract style, with much use of heavily grained driftwood and strongly contrasted colours.  Gradually his printing became smoother, his prints very large, and his colours more internally harmonious.  His works have been inspired mostly by Kyoto gardens and locations, and are in a sense almost calligraphic reworkings of a few themes in a semi-abstract style.  Takahashi has exhibited with the Japanese Print Association since 1950 and since the mid-1960s with the College Women's Association of Japan annual show.  After his USA visit he had many one-man shows in that country and became popular in the West.

Photo with Onchi Koshiro 1952. 
Takahashi is standing on left. From artist's catalogue raisonné p.199.

Printing Technique
Sources: Who's Who in Modern Japanese Prints, Frances Blakemore, Weatherhill, 1975, p. 197 and Modern Japanese Prints1912-1989, Lawrence Smith British Museum Press, 1994,p. 62
Takahashi’s use of the traditional woodblock medium isaccomplished in a particularly unique fashion. He partially overlapsshina-faced (veneer) plywood blocks and prints with thin watercolor ink, creating distinct tones.  In order to preserve the integrity of the colors, each block is printed partly over a white area.  The darker tones are usually the result of several overlappings, but this is not always the case.  The textures, worked out in advance, enhance the translucency of the pigments.  The bold, dark stripes are softened by expanses of varying hues.

 “Takahashi Style”

Source:"The World of Rikio Takahashi – The Spirit of Wood,” Masayoshi Homma, in Rikio Takahashi, The Woodblock Prints, Abe Publishing LTD. (1998) pp.18-21.
Takahashi became immersed in abstraction right fromthe beginning, jumping directly into abstraction without going througha representational phase.  Building on this foundation, he developedforms unique to himself and created the distinctive Takahashi Style. What, then, are the features of this style?

Simply stated, headded essential qualities cultivated in Japanese tradition to themodern abstract style learned from Onchi to create a new and uniquestyle of his own. 

Takahashi almost never uses colors close tothe primaries.  He uses an abundant variety of subdued mixtures, subtlevariations of warm browns, cool water tones, and greens resembling thefeathers of the bush warbler greens.   These are all colors typical ofKyoto.  Their constant luminous quality is a characteristic ofTakahashi’s work that might be considered a reflection of the calm andelegant Yayoi aspect of the Japanese spirit.  Beginning in 1970, therewas a sudden appearance of bright areas of red and red accents thatgive a finishing touch to the composition.  There are brief glimpses ofa free spirit which break the tension of carefully-maintained balance. 

In Takahashi’s prints, varied, irregular forms are arrangedinside and outside a large square.  Some of them seem to have beencreated with a brush and have a sense of motion which is quitedifficult to achieve in woodblock prints.  The black and dark-coloredforms in particular are reminiscent of Japanese calligraphy.

Iwould like to call attention to Takahashi’s special technique ofoverlapping colored areas to create effects that might be thought tobelong more to the category of color than form.

When a woodcutis printed, the delicate texture of the wood grain appears as if a finemist had been sprayed on the surface.  However, the cuts made by theknife in the block play a central role, and the grained surface isgenerally treated as background.  When two or three colors areoverlapped, the grain may appear as if seen through a layer of gauze,resulting in a composite expression with a complex and subtletransparency.  This sort of expression can be seen in some of Onchi’searly work but it seems to have been unintentional.  Takahashi, on theother hand, used this layering effect quite deliberately throughout hiscareer.  This layering of colors is an important factor in theconsistency of his style from the early period to present. 

Thissubtle transparent expression depends on a marvelous technique ofprinting in extremely thin layers like the thin strips of meat in shabushabu, but it also relies on the conditioning of the colors.  In anycase, this technique is the secret behind the maintenance of colorbrightness in spite of layering and the subtlety of the neutral colorsproduced.


The layers of colors and forms areorganized in unique compositions.  This compositional style belongsmainly to the Yayoi tradition  of Japanese art.  However, between thefifties and sixties it also had some of the more expressive,free-flowing qualities of the Gemini tradition.  Irregular forms werespread over the entire surface of the picture with Dionysian abandon. This resulted in truncated compositions with a somewhat anxiousdynamism.  Beginning in the mid-sixties, a white space appeared aroundthe motif reminiscent of the blank areas in ink painting.  In theseventies this margin was even more evident, enhancing the light,bright qualities of the print.  This change represented an assertion ofYayoi taste over Gemini.

NIWA A (Corner), 1978
In the seventies, this marginal spacecame to have more obvious structural features.  First, a rigidly squaregeometric form emerged, which had not been seen, but it was oftensurrounded by empty space.  These forms first appeared in the Niwaseries which was based on Kyoto motif, so I would guess that the squarerepresented a walled garden.  If so, the delicate lines and planes,which cluster around the square like theatrical props, probablyindicate trees, ponds, and rock formations in the garden.  Thisimpression is reinforced by an amorphous form reminiscent of a singleChinese character made with heavy brush strokes which is placed underthe square.  It creates a balanced contrast with the square above it. I see it as a symbol of the living, bustling city outside the enclosedgarden.  This composition of a square and a ideograph was repeated in aseries of prints and became a definite structural pattern inTakahashi’s work.

Critical Comments

Source: Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989, Lawrence Smith, British Museum Press, 1994, p. 62
Takahashi,like many Japanese artists of the post-war era, found a theme and haskept to it, endlessly exploring and refining over more than forty yearshis prints inspired largely by the classic gardens of Kyoto.  Unlikemost, however, his concentration on virtually one theme has led toever-greater depth and ease, each print very subtly yet unequivocallycreating a different little world of colour and mood.  These coloursreflect not only the quiet tones of the gardens themselves but thealmost imperceptible changes in light which the seasons bring.  Thesame atmosphere is found even in his prints which do not referspecifically to gardens.

Source: Rikio Takahashi – Hangi no Bunjin,
LawrenceSmith, in Rikio Takahashi, TheWoodblock Prints, Abe Publishing LTD. (1998) pp. 12-13.
Whenone looks at Takahashi’s prints over four decades, there is also thisconstant sense of precision, as if he knew exactly what he wanted toachieve before he even began to cut the block.  Takahashi’s maininspiration…is usually nature as enjoyed and lived in the typicalJapanese setting of traditional architecture, gardens, and the seasons.

Takahashiis a man who produces one refinement after another upon a style helearned from his master, Koshiro Onchi.  This is surely an attitudewhich belongs to calligraphy, and I have already noted the more literalechoes of brush and ink which are found in many of Takahashi’s prints. Yet beyond calligraphy, you feel in his work the constant love of thepast, of gardens, of the changing seasons, and of silence andcontemplation.  Takahashi is in the final consideration a Bunjin (ascholar) – a Bunjin of the Woodblock.

Collaboration with Ken Tyler

Source: National Gallery of Australia website, "Artist Profile" by Gwen Horsfield, 2008 - http://nga.gov.au/InternationalPrints/Tyler/DEFAULT.cfm?MnuID=2&ArtistIRN=22711&List=True

"Takahashi’s collaboration with Kenneth Tyler1 followed a strong tradition of artistic exchange between America and Japan in the post-war period. Titled Nest, the print in the NGA collection was produced at the Gemini workshop in 1965. It is representative of Takahashi’s typical mode of abstraction, with depth created by tonal layers and the image vaguely reminiscent of the natural forms Takahashi found so inspiring."

lithograph three colour
Edition: 35
Raisonné #160)
IHL Cat. #720

1 Source: National Gallery of Australia website http://nga.gov.au/InternationalPrints/Tyler/Default.cfm?MnuID=10
Tyler established the print workshop Gemini Ltd. in 1965 and set out to work with the very best artists of his day, promising them
: ‘Here is a workshop, there are no rules, no restrictions, do what you want to do’

The Artist's Words - “On My Work”

Source: Reflections on the Path of Printmaking, Rikio Takahashi in RikioTakahashi, The Woodblock Prints, Abe Publishing LTD. (1998) p. 197.
Itis impossible to speak about my work while looking at a book orphotographic reproductions of it.  It is like scratching a place thatitches while wearing an overcoat.  Flat printed reproductions aredifferent from the actual work. 

My prints are made with thewater-based mineral pigments called suihi, which are used inJapanese-style painting, on handmade Japanese paper.  The pigments arerubbed into the physical volume of the paper with a baren, and thisproduces an effect essentially different from a picture printed flatand clean with a machine.  Also, the colors in the reproduction arealways slightly different from those in the original.

All formsof Japanese culture are structured as a do, a way or path.  Theprescribed path must be taken to approach these practices – kendo (theway of the sword), judo (the soft way of wrestling), shodo (the way ofwriting), kado (the way of flowers), kodo (the way of incense), andsado (the way of tea.)  However, there is no do in my work.  I amhoping to convey something true, hopefully not something false orpretentious.


Catalogue Raisonné - Rikio Takahashi, The Woodblock Prints, Abe Publishing LTD. (1998)
Images of a Changing World: Japanese Prints of the Twentieth Century, Jenkins, Donald, Portland Art Museum, 1983, p. 102 and 126.
Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989, Lawrence Smith, The British Museum Press, 1994, p. 35-36.
The Japanese Print Since 1900: Old Dreams and New Visions, Lawrence Smith, The British Museum Publications Ltd., 1983, p. 119 and 129.

Catalogue Raisonné - Rikio Takahashi, The Woodblock Prints, Abe Publishing LTD. (1998) 

 Spine Publishing Data

Lawrence Smith (Keeper Emeritus of Japanese Antiquities - British Museum) Article p. 12 -13

click on above image to read article


Paris,France--one-man show; CWAJ Exhibits, Tokyo, Japan--1962- 1997;Dusseldorf, Germany--one man show; International Print ExhibitionTaipei, Taiwan--prize winner; San Diego, California--one-man show;Kyoto, Japan--one man show; Xylon International Woodblock Triennial,Switzerland--prize winner in 1984 & 1990; Japan Print Association,Tokyo; Krakow International Print Biennial, Poland; New York City--oneman show; Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama, January 2008“Lyricism of the Woodcut Takahashi Rikio: Retrospective”;  Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, November 2018 through March 2019 "Three Masters of Abstraction: Hagiwara Hideo, Ida Shōichi and Takahashi Rikio."

Three Masters of Abstraction: Hagiwara Hideo, Ida Shōichi and Takahashi Rikio
November 3 - March 31, 2019
Portland Art Museum, Portland Oregon

Takahashi Rikio, Revelation, 1965
Takahashi Rikio (Japanese, 1927–1999)
 Revelation, 1965
color woodblock print on paper
The Vivian and Gordon Gilkey Graphic Arts Collection, © Takahashi Rikio 91.84.814;
This exhibition presents nearly fifty prints by three Japanese artists who rose to international prominence in the decades following World War II. All of them embraced abstraction, that most quintessential of Western modernisms, as a means for expressing fundamentally Japanese themes.

Hagiwara Hideo (1913–2007) combined abstract expression with imaginative approaches to traditional Japanese woodblock techniques to create prints of great visual depth. Winner of multiple international print exhibition prizes, Hagiwara taught printmaking at Oregon State University in 1967.

Takahashi Rikio (1917–1998) is known for his prints evoking Japanese gardens throughout the seasons, without ever depicting a plant or stone. Working almost exclusively in woodblock, he created images that convey stillness, balance, and a sense of timelessness.

Ida Shōichi (1941–2006) took abstraction to radically new levels. For him, the techniques of silkscreen, lithography, etching, and traditional woodblock printing were not instruments for creating images, but forces that act upon or emerge from the paper. In his reverence for the potential inherent in the materials, Ida harks back to aesthetic values of the Japanese tea ceremony and Mingei movement.

This exhibition draws upon prints in the Museum’s collection and from the Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints.
Organized by the Portland Art Museum and curated by Maribeth Graybill, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Asian Art, with Irwin Lavenberg, Research Associate for Japanese Art.

2018 The Museum of Modern Art, Wakayama

Scenery of Gardens: Takahashi Rikio's Wwooblock Prints

click on image to enlarge

2008 Retropective at The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura & Hayama

Lyricism of the Woodcut: TAKAHASHI Rikio: Retrospective

This artist was a pioneer in creating a unique style of abstractwoodblock printmaking during Japan's period of postwarinternationalization. He was born as the eldest son of Nihon-ga artistTorao Takahashi in Tokyo and was involved in running a photographystudio alongside his father until his teenage years. After the warhowever, he started studying under Koshiro Onchi and soon startedcreating experimental abstract woodblock prints. As his artistic careerdeveloped, America became the base for his activities in the 60s.International recognition followed. His works are characterized bytraditional Japanese scenery motifs expressed in rich colors createdfrom layered printing and bold abstraction. Last year the artist'seldest daughter presented the museum with approximately 500 of theartist's works from the 1940s through the 1990s. 60 selected works willbe on display in this exhibition.

Exhibition press release
Cover of the exhibition catalog
Catalog introduction


NationalMuseum of Modern Art, Tokyo; National Museum of Art, Osaka; The Museumof Modern Art, Kamakura; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; New YorkUniversity Grey Museum; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Museum of ArtPhiladelphia; University of Oregon Museum of Art; Portland Museum of Art; University ofOklahoma; Art Institute of Chicago;  Rockefeller Foundation, New York;Honolulu Academy of Arts; Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City; Museed’Art et d’Histoire, Geneve; Poland National Museum; The BritishMuseum, London; Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa, Israel; The Embassy ofIndia; Susaka City Museum of Hanga, Nagano; The Schnard School of Art,California; Helsinki City Art Museum and others.

last revision:

Subpages (43):View All