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1927 Born in Niigata, Japan - second son of a village officer

Age 14 - Begins sketching, drawing, painting

Age 17 - Becomes aware of his desire to become an artist; interested in nature, botany, zoology, mass media, artistic duplication, and motion pictures.

1945 Enters Tama Art College - studies oil painting

1956 - Does a full edition in oil paintings

1962-1963 - travels to Turkey, India, Greece and Europe - is strongly influenced by these artistic cultures, especially the Indian and Persian miniatures of the 14th through 17th centuries. Also becomes familiar with paintings of the Renaissance artist Paolo Uccello, who worked in Italy. His paintings hanging in the Louvre today clearly show the inspiration which Nakayama derived from them. These are paintings of majestic horses with ornate harnesses and bridles painted in strong colors and leaf gold. In addition to this influence, one must add to these western influences the time-honored method of Japanese woodblock printing using hand-made hosho paper, whose history can be traced to 105 A.D.; the usage of the baren to apply pressure to create the image---this instrument is believed to have originated in China a thousand years ago; and the traditional woodblock printing method of using one block for each color in the composition--a very time-consuming and tedious process.


 1956-1964 - First distinct period of his career comprised of the early works; he created a series of birds in various sizes, loosely classified as the "Phoenix" or "Incarnation" series, showing large cranes in various postures, standing still with beak pointed heavenward; in quiet migrating flight or in masses of almost formless feathers. The backgrounds of these works are dark, but the figures are printed in strong reds, yellows, and greens especially mustard green; a color which he began to use with greater frequency. Concurrently, Nakayama began to portray the female form with wind-blown hair, with variations on the human form with rythm and motion. Butterflies, multicolored and overlapping appear in these earliest works. His horses of this period are motionless or active with flowing manes printed in a multitude of colors.




 1965-1968 - Brief middle period. These prints are characterized by posture, shadowing and depth. There is a mingling of colors in the background as the brown, gold and silver threads are woven into patterns. The lines of the horses are so skillfully intertwined that one is often unable to determine where one horse ends and the next one begins. The second period is marked by the appearance of a new sub-theme--various flowers which the artist incorporates with previously used subjects. Horses and pansies, horses and poppies, and butterflies and pansies are typical of this period.


1969-1989 - A large body of work was completed during this time. This period shows Tadashi Nakayama's confidence in the woodblock print technique, They are refined and every element of the composition is conrolled. The figures emerge boldly from the background. There is an isolation of figures and increased clarity of background. Now immensely successful in his technique, he is able to print the gold and silver leaf more effectively achieving both a stronger, bolder ground when the leaf is used in its pure form in the backgrounds or more senuous tones when it is overlaid on blues, greens, rusts and other colors. In some of his prints of this period, one sees an entirely new theory of spatial relationships achieved by the placement of the horse on a platform or a stage with a curtain in the background. In "Phantasy Horse", 1977, the stage is dotted with interesting red-orange circles moving form the foreground to the background. As the dots recede, they become smaller until they are eventually cut off by the backdrop.




In 1972, Nakayama completed his first horse entitled "Ema", a Persian-like horse which he has repeated many times since. These Ema horses are reminiscent of the "Ema" of Japanese mythology. In Japanese Folk-lore, horses were constantly in danger of being drowned at river drinking sites. A custom developed of hanging near watering holes, on trees or posts, drawings on wooden tablets known as "Emas". Nakayama's horses are obviously a continuation of the art form "Ema" which began in the Muromachi era and continued to the Edo Period. Nakayama's "Emas" are characterized by strong, concentrated lines or series of dots which form a tablet-like print.


In the print, "Running Horses" which was released in 1984, one sees a slight departure for Nakayama in the form of bold diagonal lines of gold which draw one's eyes to the running horses, the focal point of the print. These gold lines printed on a black surface are a clue that Nakayama is slightly re-arranging his concepts of space and emphasis; one is reminded of the structure of some of the works of the 20th Century American Abstract Expressionists.

1990 - Begins with the release of "Mirage in the Wind", this is the beginning of the fourth period of his career. This print was created on 35 woodblocks, printed with 47 colors in 51 stages of hand-printing. In this print, the colors are brighter, clearer and the strong diagonal lines are used to create motion. "Road of the Butterflies Spring" released in 1991, again uses diagonal lines to create emphasis and action culminating in the center with the profile of a young girl with free, marvelously flowing hair printed with dots of brilliant color. As Nakayama continues to work, one will no doubt see other important developments in the use of color and line in his prints.

Nakayama begins each print by drawing the design on ordinary paper. After the design is completed, it is painted with watercolors an he may add gold and silver to help him visualize the final work. Next, Nakayama transfers each color of the design onto separate sheets of tracing paper. For example, every section of the print which will be magenta is traced onto a separate sheet of paper, every section which will be cadmium yellow is traced onto another sheet, etc....

When all of the areas of color have been transferred onto sheets of tracing paper, the next step is to transfer the image to the woodblocks, again using one block for each of the different areas of color. Nakayama craves his blocks using chisels, awls, knives and other tools. Upon completion of the carving, he begins the printing of trial proofs. During this process, he determines the order in which the colors and the leaf gold and silver will be printed. Determining the order of colors is influenced by the shadings of color he wishes to create and it also depends to some extent on where the colors are locatd in the composition. For example, when certain colors are printed over others, a certain grain or striation might occur which Nakayama does not want in his print. Experience has taught him the general order of the application of colors and the optimum time for the printing of 24 carat leaf gold and silver. Nakayama's goal might be to achieve the clearest printing possible or it might be to create a kaleidoscope of brilliance by overlapping colors.

Because Nakayama's prints are very complicated, they are very time-consuming and he is able to complete only one or two prints each year. He is the sole creator of his work and until very recent years, he did all of the work of each print. He drew the basic design, traced the colors onto the blocks, carved the blocks, printed the trial proofs and final edition. At this time, he receives some assistance in the carving of blocks and in printing. However, all stages of carving and printing are done under his supervision. He controls every stage of his creativity.

When one compares the prints of Tadashi Nakayama with those of a western artist, American or European, one is struck by the intensity of the labor of technique and the expansiveness of his creations. When one considers that his works are printed on hand-made hosho paper, printed with hand pressure and absent the usage of any machines, completed in the privacy of his home, created totally by the artist, one marvels at the integrity of the work. Consider the time-consuming manner in which the printing is achieved which results in a total body of work of one or two prints each year. When one considers the small editions of 85 or 95, one can realize the scarcity of these prints when one understands the universal international appeal of his compositions.

Tadashi Nakayama, who was inspired by the works of the Renaissance and the Persian and Indian artists through the 17th century, is creating his works iin the 20th century using an ancient Japanese woodblock printing technique--works of such grace, beauty, fluidity of line and luxuriance of color, that they will be even more appreciated in the 21st Century.


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