Yoshijiro Urushibara – also known as Mokuchu – trained as woodblock carver and printer in Japan. He came to England in 1908 aged nineteen, and in 1910 demonstrated printing techniques at the Anglo-Japanese Exhibition in London. He settled in England, occasionally travelling in Europe, until he had to return to Japan in 1940 due to the Second World War.
His talents led to collaborations with other artists. From 1917 he worked with Frank Brangwyn, interpreting Brangwyn’s designs in woodcuts. Independently of his collaborative work, Urushibara is most famous for his striking woodcuts of flowers – which he designed, cut and printed. Their many subtle colours – each printed using a different block – demonstrate significant technical ability. Evidence suggests that the blocks were destroyed once the edition – of up to only 150 prints – had been completed.
Urushibara is considered to be a major influence in the revival of British colour woodblock printing in the early twentieth century.
Before he left Britain Urushibara gave a copy of his latest works to Winston Churchill – who sent a letter of appreciation from 10 Downing Street saying he found them ‘delightful’. Urushibara continued working in Japan until the end of his life.