An image of Man exhaling butterfly


(Japan 1897 – 1946)

Man exhaling butterfly

Not on display
Further information

Taninaka is considered one of the most original print artists of modern Japan. Together with Munakata Shikô, Taninaka was the most prominent artist of the Creative Print group called Shiro-to-kuro (White and black). The two share common characteristics: the works of both artists stand out from their contemporaries with their bold and powerful figurative images; they were not overly concerned about technical precision when cutting blocks and printing; and they both lived in extreme poverty in their younger days. However, unlike Munakata who achieved great international success after WWII, Taninaka died of starvation during the postwar food shortage.

Shiro-to-kuro regularly published magazines with original woodcut prints. This print seems to have come from issue no. 41 which was a special issue on Taninaka. It is one of his best known prints.

Taninaka's prints are some of the most important expressions of modern art in Japan. He depicts the complex psyche of the modern man: desire, imagination, alienation and longing for 'lost innocence'. An appealing characteristic of his work, which is a reflection of the intellectual trend of the time, is the ease with which he moves beyond the traditional cultural boundaries by ingesting Western icons to express the complexity of the modern, urban mind, without specific cultural identity. This characteristic sets Taninaka apart from Munakata Shikô whose works tend to seek their modern identity within the local cultural traditions.

Place of origin
Japan: Shôwa period 1926–1988
colour woodcut
16.1 x 19.9 cm
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

D G Wilson Bequest Fund 1999
Accession number