Drawings by Onchi, Kōshirō
Onchi Kōshirō was born in the upper classes of Japan: his father was the tutor of three young princes, who were to marry the Meiji emperor's daughters. He was encouraged by Takehisa Yumeji to enter the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1909. Again through Yumeji's mediation he got a job as a book designer in 1911. Together with Kyōkichi Tanaka and Shizuo Fujimori he started a monthly magazine, Tsukubae, devoted to poetry and prints. From then on his career took flight: he became one of the most important Sōsaku Hanga artists of the 20th century; he had a profound influence on other artists (he was the driving force behind the Ichimokukai, the First Thursday Society, started in 1939, a monthly meeting of hanga artists), and he developed a style truly his own. Apart from figure studies he is mainly known for his abstract work. In the West his profound influence on Japanese book design is often overlooked: in his life he designed some 2000 books: covers, letters & layout. He personally set the standard of excellence for Japanese graphic design. He is said to have designed his last book cover a few days before his death.