Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Katazome calendar: Takeshi Nishijima

This folio of stenciled prints is the work of a katazome artist who designed a number of calendars that were produced from 1969 or 1970 to 1980 (and perhaps outside that range of years as well). If he is the same Takeshi Nishijima listed on Artfacts.Net then he was born in 1929 and died in 2003.

According to the descriptive text that accompanies the folio, Nishijima was both a professor of art at Kyoto University and "a graphic and textile designer [who] exhibited in numerous one man shows and won the coveted Grand Prize at the Kyoto Art Exhibit." He was associated with Haruo Kuriyama of the Wazome Kogei company, which was probably the publisher of this calendar. I've been told that Kuriyama was a friend of Keisuke Serizawa, the best known katazome artist, who produced calendars annually beginning in 1946.

Given the similarity in technique and layout between the work of the two calendar makers, Nishijima may well have studied with Serizawa; if so, he was also effectively a competitor, as Serizawa's calendars continued to appear through the 1970s. His work isn't as intricate as Serizawa's, which shows a greater fondness for rich geometrical ornament, and it appears to have received little attention outside of Japan. These calendars were, nevertheless, clearly aimed at Western audiences, as all the names of the months are in English.

Grateful acknowledgment is due to the printmaker Brian Garner for providing these images. I have cropped them square for the web, but they were printed on handmade paper and the bottom edges are in fact untrimmed. Below each image I have added the interpretive text for each month that was provided by the publisher on a separate sheet (see the last image below).

"During January people come to pray at Heian Shrine, Kyoto, for peace and good luck throughout the year."

"February brings tranquility in Plum Tree Park at Tsukigase, Kyoto."

"March is the time when water orchids rise to impart a springlike charm and grace."

"In April the tree peony is a delightful harbinger of the joys of spring."

"The rose which blooms in May is the universal symbol of love."

"June tells of farm dwellings at the castle town, near Nara prefecture."

"As summer progresses into July we are present as a storm passes, with clouds running at the ridge."

"The first yield of fruit in August tends to refresh the eye as well as the palate."

"September is the month for typhoons. Here willow trees sway in the wind at Nijo Castle, Kyoto, to protest the approaching violence."

"October's autumn flowers are handsomely framed by a Chinese jar of the Sung era."

"The sunset symbolizes approach of the year's end. The landscape of Japanese inland sea Seto is November's setting."

"As December arrives we note that Kyoto's farmers have completed their work. The harvest is in and we see a serene community of farmhouses."

Here are some katazome links:
  • Explanations of the technique at Wikipedia and by John Marshall.

  • George Baxley has information on Keisuke Serizawa's calendars, with numerous examples.

  • Kit Eastman is an American illustrator who employs the katazome technique.

  • Another artist, M. Joan Lintault, has several interesting posts on her work with the technique.

  • The Japan Society has organized an outstanding exhibition dedicated to Keisuke Serizawa, which runs through January 17, 2010. A catalog is available from Yale University Press.

  • And finally, my earlier posts, with illustrations of a full calendar set possibly by Serizawa, another set that is probably by Takeshi Nishijima, and a review of the Japan Society show.


Kit said...

Chris, these images are so beautiful; eye-popping color and composition! May I link to one of the images and also to the article from my blog?

Chris said...


By all means.

Best wishes,



Hello Chris -

Wow, weird - I just purchased a small hoard of Calendars most if not all of which are by Takeshi Nishijima. Five complete calendars and 27 loose pages. If you would like to see them here is a link.


You can also visit my blog at http://madeshop.blogspot.com To see Nishijima and Serizawa.

I am a HUGE fan of the Japanese mingei movement.


Chris said...


Those images are wonderful. I hope you'll keep them up on the web after the sheets are sold.

As far as I can tell there are no books in English about katazome calendars. There may be some in Japanese but if so I haven't seen any reference to them. Sounds like a project for somebody!

Library Fashionista said...

Dear Chris,

Thank you for assisting me in researching a set of calendars that I picked up in upstate NY in the early 1990s. I have various prints (possibly full sets) from calendars dating from 1963, 1967, 1969, 1971 and 1972. Unfortunately, none of my calendars bear the name of Takeshi Nishijimi and the only identification I found is on the 1969 calendar, which has a paper label, "Original Mingei product made by Mr. Haruo Kubiyama, in Kyoto, Japan. Exclusive firm in the U.S.A. Yasutomo Co., San Francisco." However, based on your research I do think these calendars are by Nishijima. I will try to scan some sample images to post-- they truly are amazing and I've always intended (although not yet managed) to frame several.

Thank you again for the information.


Chris said...


I'd love to see the images. If you haven't already done so you should look at George Baxley's page of calendars by Keisuke Serizawa and see if any of yours match the images there.


Library Fashionista said...

Dear Chris-- After a more careful inspection of all of the calendar pages, I did find an insert for a 1973 calendar attributing the work to Takeshi Nishijima! While I have the inserts (the pages that list the month and scene depicted on each calendar page) for several years, none of the others note the artist-- although the works are all very similar stylistically.

I did note that the calendar I have for 1969 does not match the calendar you have on your More Katazome Calendars post--perhaps another artist entirely? None of the calendars I have appear to be Keisuke Serizawa calendars. I think most if not all, are Nishijima pieces. I'll do some scans this week.


ewserk said...

I scanned several calendar pages which I've posted on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26020534@N04/sets/72157623543890864/


Chris said...


Great scans! If the 1963 one is by Nishijima that extends his range of activity back at least another five years.

There has to be someone out there who knows more about this man.

Chris said...


George Baxley has the 1963 image you posted, as well as the cover from the same folio:


He lists it in the "source not confirmed" category. See:


ewserk said...


You're right-- as well as the unconfirmed 1971 calendar(http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/serizawa/cal_1971-1.jpg). I also notice that there are already confirmed Keisuke Serizawa calendars for both 1963 and 1971-- I suspect that these are more likely by Nishijima.

Despite a fair amount of database searching this morning, I could find almost nothing on Nishijima. However, in WorldCat I did find a book, or possibly catalog, on his works. Now if I can just get the one copy I found, currently located in library in Japan, sent through Interlibrary Loan to Ohio and if I can then just get someone to translate the whole book for me from the Japanese-- we can at last know more about this wonderfully talented artist. Obviously, this might take awhile, but I'm going to attempt it.

Thank you so much for your postings and all your research--it's all so intriguing!


Unknown said...

I have been saving a 1972 Takeshi Nishijima katazome calendar all these years in its original folder and in pristine condition. I hope to use it in 2012, as the pages are 'generic' and will accommodate perfectly the 2012 leap-year. Thank you for posting the images and discussion. It increases my knowledge and appreciation of this set. bruseck@aol.com