How much is a Hiroshi Yoshida Print Worth?

Artist Hiroshi Yoshida has gained worldwide recognition as one of the most important artists of the Japanese shin-hanga (“new prints”) movement. However, for those more accustomed to Western art styles, his atmospheric woodblocks prints can be difficult to evaluate. In this blog post, we’ll try to elaborate on the unique style of Hiroshi Yoshida, and help you evaluate the value of his prints.

History of Hiroshi Yoshida

Hiroshi Yoshida was born in 1876 in the city of Kurume, in Japan, in an artistic family. His adoptive father was a painting teacher, and early on Hiroshi began to imitate his style. Looking to improve his skills, the artist moved to Kyoto where he studied Western painting styles, under celebrated painting teacher Tamura Shoryu, after which he continued his studies in Tokyo under Koyama Shōtarō.

Noticing the Western’s fascination with ukiyo-e, during his first U.S. tour in 1899, the artist moved away from oil painting and watercolors and began to focus more on woodblock prints. In 1925, Hiroshi Yoshida opened his own studio where he worked with designers, carvers, and printers to produce some of his finest works.

However, unlike the ukiyo-e system that made a clear division of work between a designer, a carver, and a printer, Hiroshi Yoshida still stayed involved in every part of the printing process, from designing the print, to picking the colors and even helped carve some of the printing blocks. Therefore he positioned himself between the traditional Japanese ukiyo-e collaborative system and the sōsaku-hanga movement that required artists to singlehandedly design, carve and print their pieces. In his later life, Hiroshi Yoshida enjoyed global fame, touring and exhibiting all over the world, until his death on April 5, 1950.

Hiroshi Yoshida’s Sailing Boats 

Hiroshi Yoshida and other artists of the shin-hanga movement combined traditional Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock printing, with Western art styles. The artist combined traditional ukiyo-e subject matter including landscapes, and female figures with the typical Impressionist sensibility for light, perspective, and mood.

His most prominent art series, the 1921 Sailing Boats, powerfully portrays this mixture. The artist used the same woodblocks to recreate an identical scene over and over again but varied colors and shades to depict different moods and times of days. The series shows Hiroshi Yoshida’s exquisite ability to portray the movement of water and intricate reflections in the sea, while the masterful portrayal of space, light, and colors adds his pieces a photographic quality.

Factors Contributing to Hiroshi Yoshida’s Value

The value of Hiroshi Yoshida prints varies and can range between several hundred to several thousand dollars. If you own a Hiroshi Yoshida print and you want to know how much it’s worth, here are a few things that should give you an insight into its value. 

  • Pencil signed vs. signed in plate

The artist’s signature is one of the first things a buyer and an art appraiser will look for in a print.  Hiroshi Yoshida signatures differ depending on the number of impressions and the designated market. Prints originally created for the Japanese market have Japanese signatures written in sumi ink. When prints were made for the Western market, Hiroshi Yoshida would hand sign them in graphite, and titled them in English. 

However, as the number of impressions grew, it was becoming too tedious to pencil sign every impression by hand. That’s why, prints made in many impressions were signed in plate, which means that the signature was engraved into the woodblock, and stamped into the print. Sometimes the artist would sign his prints in plate but would still add a pencil signature on the print. Pencil signed prints are usually more valuable since having a handwritten signature is a sign that the impression was inspected and approved by the artist directly.

Jizuri seal is another mark that the collectors are looking for in a Hiroshi Yoshida print. Jizuri means “self-printed” and can be found on early edition prints where the printing process was closely directed and supervised by Hiroshi Yoshida himself. A jizuri seal is usually placed on the left margin, although occasionally it can be found on the right and the bottom margin. Hiroshi Yoshida stamped a jizuri seal only on his best impressions, which brings these prints additional prestige. Prints with a bright red seal are considered the most valuable as they are very rare (since the majority of jizuri seals are stamped in brown and black). 

Hiroshi Yoshida family have retained the original woodblocks and used them to create later and posthumous versions. Hiroshi Yoshida prints made after his death, don’t have the jizuri seal, nor the quality of the original prints. Unlike prints made by the artist himself, posthumous versions are usually stamp signed. 

  • Size of the print

The majority of Hiroshi Yoshida prints were made in two different sizes (16″ x 10.5″ and 21.5″ x 15.5″). Print size is another important factor to consider, since prints made in larger sizes are usually more expensive than their smaller counterparts.

  • Condition of the print

When determining the overall condition of Japanese prints most appraisers look at three categories: quality of impression, quality of condition and quality of color. Impressions of high quality are crisp and the lines clear. Unfortunately, woodblocks are known to wear off during use, which means that later impressions aren’t as sharp as the first few, which negatively reflects on their price. Quality of color also contributes to the value, as prints that are faded usually cost less than prints with fresh and vivid colors. Finally, quality of condition refers to different types of physical damage that can appear on the print. For example, some prints are glued to the mat which can permanently leave glue residues on the piece. Due to improper handling and storage, numerous bumps, buckling, creases and tears can appear on the print. Certain damages can be repaired and the print restored. However, the restoration itself can reduce the price of a piece, which is why you should consult with an expert before deciding whether to restore and repair a print or just sell it as it is.

Meet our Hiroshi Yoshida Appraisal Experts

With so many different factors to consider, it can be difficult to make a difference between a highly valuable Hiroshi Yoshida print and an impression of lesser value. Luckily, Revere auction’s Asian Art specialists have years of experience in appraising Hiroshi Yoshida works. For a small fee, our experts will evaluate your piece and issue you a certified document confirming its value. And if you decide to sell your Hiroshi Yoshida collection at one of our online auctions, we’ll give you a free complimentary estimate of value. We have already successfully completed sales of Hiroshi Yoshida pieces, and have an excellent understanding of the market for his work. By listing your print to one of Revere online auctions, you’ll instantly gain access to the international network of Hiroshi Yoshida appreciators looking for the latest addition for their collection.

Hiroshi Yoshida’s Children

Apart from Hiroshi Yoshida himself, there are other artists from the Yoshida family whose pieces are highly sought after on the market. Both of Hiroshi Yoshida sons have grown up to be celebrated artists. The artist’s first son, Tōshi Yoshida, started his career by depicting animals, but quickly turned to romanticized landscape imagery closely resembling his father’s style. After Hiroshi passed away, Tōshi began to create oil paintings, woodblock prints, and illustrations in the style of modern realism and abstraction. Hodaka Yoshida, the artist’s younger son, was the pioneer of copper-etching, lithograph, and silkscreen techniques in Japan, which he skilfully combined with Japanese woodblock, to create a series of abstract art pieces.