Joichi Hoshi is a celebrated twentieth-century Japanese printmaker and is called the “father of tree prints.” His primary medium was woodblock printing, and he is best known for his prints of intricate and leafless trees set against monochromatic backgrounds.
Hoshi was born in 1913 in Niigata in Northern Honshu, Japan. During his early childhood years, he moved to Taiwan with his family. Taiwan was under Japanese occupation at the time. He obtained his degree from Tainan Normal School and began working in Taiwan as an elementary teacher. He passionately taught students for over 13 years.
After World War II ended, Taiwan was released from Japanese occupation. Because of this, Hoshi was repatriated and returned to Japan in 1946. He proceeded to work in a print shop and learned different printing techniques, notably the silkscreen method. His interest grew, and he began pursuing an artistic education at the Musashino University of Art.
During his time at Musashino, he learned about and mastered woodblock printmaking. Upon his graduation in 1956, he found success and presented his works at various exhibitions. Most notably, he exhibited his prints at the Tokyo International Print Biennials in 1959, 1961, and 1963 and the Brazil International Print Biennial in 1969.
His early work focused on abstract prints using the Sosaku Hanga style, which was popular. From 1964 to 1967, he did his ‘Constellation’ series, which eventually reached forty-two prints. In the 1970s, the focus of prints shifted to trees, which proceeded to become the most successful of his works. Those prints amounted to around 163 sheets.
He made prints until his death in 1979. Currently, his works are still popular with museums and collectors. His admirers can see his work in various museums across the globe, including the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art in Japan and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, USA. His work is even displayed at the White House in Washington, D.C.
Joichi Hoshi’s Prints
Hoshi initially studied oil painting and mimeograph print techniques, but woodblock printing dominates his critically acclaimed body of work. Hoshi learned woodblock printmaking as a member of the Japanese Woodblock Print Association in the 1940s and won an award at a Print Exhibition in 1949. He began his art career in earnest after acquiring a degree in Fine Arts at age 42 in 1956. Although he was a latecomer to the field, Hoshi quickly rose to prominence and received awards from the National Artists Associations in Japan.
During the 60s and 70s, he gained international acclaim while working in consecutive print biennales. The international art community was introduced to his works in the Tokyo International Print Biennales in 1960, 1962, 1964, and 1966. In 1966, Hoshi started to expand his influence into Europe.
He was a part of the International Print Biennales and Triennials, taking his work to Geneva in 1966 and San Paulo and London in the next two years. He gained his American audience when the Oklahoma Museum of Art displayed his work at an exhibition of Japanese printmakers in 1966. His work was also shown in a tour of Japanese printmakers and artists in 1969, expanding his international admiration.
When Hoshi first emerged as an artist, his primary subject matter was celestial bodies. From 1956 until 1970, stars and constellations were central features in his abstract woodblock prints, depicted with intricate detail and sophisticated color design. His travels to Mongolia led to the celestial prints—he felt that stargazing in Mongolia was the best in the world because its skies were the darkest and made the stars shine brighter.
The luminous celestial bodies soon disappeared from his prints in 1970 when he began woodblock prints of his famous trees. The leafless, single trees, groves, and branches became a leitmotif in his work and appeared against monochromatic and vivid backgrounds with a dual color scheme in the entire artwork.
He chose the motif of trees because he considered them God’s most incredible creations on Earth and wanted to pay homage to nature. Hoshi worked with the medium of woodblock printing, which is traced back to the 8th century CE. Woodblock printing was initially used to rewrite Buddhist scriptures before printing books became common in the 15th century. The motivation behind the tree prints fits into the medium’s history of spiritualism and religion.
Hoshi used silver and gold leaf details in his tree prints to create a surreal, dreamlike quality. With the shift in his central subject, Hoshi also shifted styles and graduated from abstract work to magical realism. He continued his tree prints until he died in 1979. When his prints rose to prominence, he was eventually dubbed with his famous moniker: the father of tree prints. His work continues to have great cultural significance, and he is grouped with prominent masters of woodblock printing such as Hashiguchi Goyō.
How Much are Joichi Hoshi Prints Worth?
Among print collectors, Joichi Hoshi’s prints are highly desirable commodities. The price differs depending on the edition, medium, and size of the print. Hoshi’s prints typically cost between 500 and 1000 USD. However, prices become elevated due to the high desirability of these prints. Hoshi’s untimely death means his work, particularly limited edition pieces, is scarcely available. Therefore, even his simpler prints can cost several thousand dollars.
Limited editions are more valuable and cost much more than open edition pieces. This is especially true if the limited edition focuses on trees as a subject matter. His tree woodblock pieces are highly technical and sizable. Some are even lined with gold and silver pigments, increasing their value even further. Therefore, they cost $1000 at the minimum.
Hoshi signed and carefully numbered and dated limited edition prints. Some of these prints even have titles penciled in on the lower right margins. His early work, including his abstracts and constellation pieces, are also highly desirable in the market.
Appraise and Sell Joichi Hoshi’s Art
Do you own a Joichi Hoshi print? If you would like to check its authenticity and value, you can reach out to Revere Auctions. We are art appraisers and sellers, and we can advise the best strategies and actions for your art. With our full-service appraisals, you will be able to get a complete overview of the print. We are located in St. Paul, Minnesota, and offer auction services on site.
If you have Joichi Hoshi prints and you would like to sell them, you can get a free auction estimate of value by contacting us here. All you need to do is send us a photo of your art piece or print, and we will give you a potential estimate of the work if it goes on sale at an auction.
Even if you do not want to sell, we advise that you get an art appraisal report for your record. With our certified appraisal reports, you can have a complete record of the print’s authenticity and worth for insurance, donation, and estate tax purposes. Our appraisal reports comply with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).