Hamaguchi Yōzō is known as the foremost Japanese printmaker to have worked in the mezzotint medium during the twentieth century, and these plates are a vital part of the story behind one of his most important compositions.
Hamaguchi was introduced to the mezzotint technique in the 1930s while a resident of Paris, and he was gifted a set of tools by the American poet e. e. cummings in 1953. In 1988, Hamaguchi designed the 22 Cherries composition, which he printed in twenty different color variations that are collectively known as the “e.e. cummings suite.” Each of the twenty variations is titled with a single line from cummings’s 1940 poem “anyone lived in a pretty how town.” The set is a testament to the relationship between poet and artist.
In 2019, the museum acquired three other plates used in the production of 22 Cherries as part of the Kenneth and Kiyo Collection of twentieth-century Japanese prints, giving us a total of eleven. Printing plates are an important material artifact of the print process, allowing us a rare window into the physical formation of the final prints and the artist’s working methods. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery now houses over 200 works by this important artist, including thirty-four printing plates. A number of these prints and plates were included in the acclaimed 2012 exhibition Art of Darkness: Japanese Mezzotints from the Hitch Collection by now curator emeritus James Ulak.
Copper plates used in the execution of the print, 22 Cherries, 1988, by Hamaguchi Yōzō
Japan, Showa era, 1988
Gift of Bill and Roberta Stein
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery