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Nakagawa, Isaku (中川伊作)

Young woman from Okinawa
Not signed, but sealed
Artist Seal: "Nakagawa" (中川) at lower left ("Naka" appears as if it were a ship's sail and the three curving lines of the river represent the ideograph for "gawa").
No seal
(H x W)
Large sôsaku hanga print
32.2 x 39  cm
Excellent color, thick paper never backed, with wide left margin intact; short crease in L margin, stray pigment spot and shallow incised line UL corner
Price (USD/¥):
$475 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry: NKG03


Nakagawa Isaku (中川伊作), 1899-2000, born in Kyoto, was a painter, printmaker, and potter. He graduated from the Kyoto Shiritsu Bijutsu Kôgei Gakkô (Kyoto City School of Fine Arts and Crafts) in 1918 (studying with Kikuchi Keigetsu, 1879-1955) and the Kyoyo Shiritsu Kaiga Senmon Gakkô (Kyoto City Specialist School of Painting) in 1921. Nakagawa was involved in the formation of the Kyoto Sôsaku-hanga Kyôkai (Kyoto Creative Print Society: 京都創作版画協会) in 1929 and was a member of Nihon Hanga Kyôkai (Japan Print Association, founded in 1931) starting in 1932. His prints of women issued in the 1930s are admired for, among other things, the accuracy of their gestures and the fashionable textile patterns. Nakagawa also produced images of fish (see NKG01) as well as landscapes and portraits. Overall, Nakagawa's prints have survived in very few impressions, suggesting that his editions were rather small.

For more information, see Nakagawa Isaku Biography and John Fiorillo's webpage Nakagawa Isaku.


This image features a young woman from Okinawa in southwestern Japan (comprising about two-thirds of the Ryûkyû Islands). She wears a traditional kasuri-pattern robe (a cross-hatch or "splashed-pattern" 綛) and her hair is done up in a popular Okinawan style callled kanpuu. The hair is twisted into a tall bun on top of the head and then held in place with a jiifaa hairpin. The "junk" (Chinese: 船, chuán) sailing in the distance evokes the centuries-long trade between the Ryûkyû Islands and mainland China.

Nakagawa's connections with Okinawa were significant. In 1928 he went to Okinawa for the first time together with Yanagi Sôetsu (柳宗悦 1889-1961), co-founder of the Nihon Mingei Kyôkai (Japan Folk Art Society: 日本民芸協会 1931) in collaboration with the distinguished potters Kawai Kanjirô (河井寬次郎 1890-1966) and Hamada Shôji (濱田庄司1894-1978). After going on a sketch tour of Okinawa in 1929, Nakagawa became fascinated with Okinawan folk ceramics and built a collection of more than 100 pieces. These were exhibited at the Kyoto National Museum in 1938 for a show titled Nanban masa sue (The Elegance of Nanban Pottery: 南蛮雅陶). In 1972 Nakagawa moved to Tsuboya (壺屋) in Naha City, Okinawa, a district famous for Tsuboya-yaki (Tsuboya ware: 壺屋焼), a type of Ryûkyûan pottery. There he built his own kiln and started experimenting with ara-yaki (荒焼 also known as nanban-yaki 南蛮焼 or Nanban ware) — traditional unglazed Okinawan pottery first developed from the trade between the Ryûkyû Islands and Southeast Asia in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Nakagawa's print on offer here is the second state completed after the somewhat smaller size in the 1933 edition. Here, the sheet size is large (32.2 x 39.0 cm). The blocks have been completely recarved, and the face, in particular, is different from the earlier edition.

Prints by Nakagawa Isaku are in the collections of the Harvard Art Museums; Honolulu Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.


  1. Catalogue of Collections [Modern Prints]: The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (Tokyo kokuritsu kindai bijutsukan shozô-hin mokuroku, 東京国立近代美術館所蔵品目録). 1993, p. 180, no. 1705.
  2. Uhlenbeck, Chris; Reigle-Newland, Amy; de Vries, Maureen: Waves of renewal: modern Japanese prints, 1900 to 1960. Leiden: Hotei Publishing, 2016, pp. 273-274, nos. 234-235.