17th May, 2016. Miyagi Sendai
Watanabe Shotei was a versatile artist and artisan of the Japanese Meiji era. At an early age he had the possibility to exhibit Japan's arts and crafts as a team member of Shibata Zeshin for the Paris World Exhibition of 1878. Later he travelled to Europe and the United States to study Western art and to exhibit Japanese arts and crafts outside of Japan.
Watanabe Shotei studied painting. Still at a young age he began to work for Shibata Zeshin who at that time was one of Japan's most renowned painters, lacquer artists and printmakers. Zeshin Shibata was selected to represent Japan at the international world exhibitions in Vienna in 1875, in Philadelphia in 1876 and in Paris in 1878.
Watanabe Shotei received the opportunity to accompany Zeshin Shibata in 1878 for the Paris World Exhibition. This lead him to further travels to the United States and to an extended stay in Paris to study Western art.
Back in Japan Shotei Watanabe followed the career scheme of Shibata Zeshin by not concentrating on one art form, but being active in a number of different art and artisan fields - printmaking, painting and making designs for Japanese cloisonné.
Also in printmaking he covered a wide field - from kuchi-e to kacho-e. Watanabe's printmaking style varies from the minimalistic approach rooted in Japanese and Chinese painting to a style that reminds us of the coming shin hanga art movement promoted by the Tokyo publisher Watanabe Shozaburo.
When the art dealer and collector Robert O. Muller passed away in 2003, he left the greatest and in the view of many art collectors and dealers also the best collection of mainly shin hanga prints that the world had ever seen. Among the shin hanga that came into the market, were also many beautiful designs made by Shotei Watanabe. They consist of kacho-e (images of birds and flowers) kept in an early shin hanga style.