Joy of the Mountain, 1957
Gift of Ted and Marcia Marks
Born into a family of farmers on the island of Shikoku, Azechi was a largely self-taught artist who cultivated a highly individual style. After moving to Tokyo in the 1920s, he joined sōsaku-hanga through Un’ichi Hiratsuka (exhibited diagonally across the room), a leader of the movement. By the 1940s Azechi had established his signature aesthetic of deep earthy pigments and blocky “primitive” forms. In the postwar period, Azechi devoted himself to alpine climbing. Japan’s mountain peaks inspired many of his works. The intense rush of the ascent and the rewarding thrill of reaching a summit are revealed through the figure’s toothy smile and face, tanned by years of exposure to the bright sun of the mountains. The strongly textured pattern of the ice axe references the rough surface of the wooden matrix. The recurring motif of a man with bird in hand implies a personal connection with nature, also channeled through Azechi’s love of climbing—and his art.