1913- Sadao Watanabe was born
1947 - received the first Japan Folk Art Museum
Prize for "The Story of Ruth"
1948 - received the Kokugakai Prize for the
"Story of Ruth"
1956 - received the Japan Print Academy prize
for "Girls and Quails"
1958 - received first prize for the "Bronze
Serpent" at the Modern Japanese Print Association, held
at St. James Church, New York City
1962 - Exhibited "The Shepherds"
and "The Shepherds Look at the Star" Tokyo International
Biennial Print Exhibition
1969 - Became a member of the Japan Print
1969-1970- Invited by Linville College, McMinnville,
Oregon, to teach stencil printing at the department of fine arts.
held one-man shows in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco
1971- Exhibited "St. Francis Preaches
the Bible" at the Modern Japanese Print Exhibition in Brussels,
Belgium. Received first prize in the Intermedia World Christmas
1975- held one-man shows at Lerchenberg and
Christus Kirche in Mainz, Germany
1976- Invited to the United States by the
Lutheran Church, taught print technique and exhibited works at
Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota, and Wittenberg
University, Springfield, Ohio. He was invited to have a one-man
show at the Hendricks Art Collection, Ltd., Bethesda, Maryland,
but declined due to the fact that all of his works were sold
at Gustavus Adolphus college and he needed to return to Japan
to make more prints
1978- Attended the Conference of Asian Christian
Artists on the Island of Bali; exhibited his works
1981- granted an honorary doctor's degree
of fine arts from Linville College
1985- held one-man shows at Academy of Arts,
Honolulu and Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Canada
1996- Sadao Watanabe died
Tokyo Museum of Modern Art, Japan Folk Art
Museum, Kurashiki Folk Art Museum, Ohara Art Museum, New york
Museum of Modern Art, museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Art Institute
of Chicago, Cincinnati Museum of Art, Portland Museum of Art,
Honolulu Academy of Art, Haifa Museum of Art, Vatican Museum
of Modern Religious Art, and the British Museum.
Sadao Watanabe was born in 1913 in Ushigome,
Tokyo. He was brought up in Tokyo and lived there all of his
life. His home was near Tokada-no-baba station. His workshop
was in his home and all of the work was completed there. His
father died at the age of 43 in 1923 at which time Sadao was
ten years old. They lived in various places during this period
of time and when they were living in Yotsuya, one of their neighbors
invited Sadao to church-- the Ichigaya Daimachi Church. His first
reactions to Christianity were negative. "In the beginning
I had a negative reaction to Christianity. The atmosphere was
so full of 'the smell of butter' so foreign to a Japanese."
However, he attended church every Sunday and
through the efforts of the pastor he soon learned the teachings
of the Bible. Soon his mother was also attending church. On September
7, 1930, he was baptised.
After the death of his father, Sadao quit
school and started to work in order to support himself. He was
an apprentice to a dyer and gradually he learned the technique
of Katazome (stencil printing). He met Keizuke Serizawa the leading
folk art print master. Serizawa had discovered the technique
of stencil printing that had been done in the Okinawan Islands.Traditionally,
the stencil was put on a cloth, but it was Serizawa who started
to utilize it with paper. While learning the stencil technique
from Serizawa, Sadao gradually developed his work centering upon
the Biblical message and drama. In 1943, he exhibited his first
Biblical print, "The Story of Abraham" at an exhibition
of the Tokyo Prefectural Craftsmen.
Katazome is a unique craft of dyeing textiles
through cut-out paper patterns. Watanabe employs this technique
to create unusual stencil prints on Japanese paper. After applying
natural dyes on rice paper, which are fixed with an ingredient
from the astringent persimmon, he washes the paper. Then after
putting rice paste on the stencil, he applies the natural color
and washes the paper again.
In 1947, the first National Exhibition of
Folk Art was held at the Folk Art Museum in Komaba, Japan. He
participated with the "Story of Ruth". It was a black
and white print in which the story of Ruth and Naomi was carefully
depicted-- it began his interpretive journey of Biblical prints.
The work was highly commended by Keizuke Serizawa. Watanabe became
the first recipient of the Japan Folk Art Museum Award.
In 1985, he had completed 380 prints, 80 dealt
with the old testament and 280 with the new testament. The remainder
are of Biblically related stories. By 1985, he had already completed
11 different prints of Noah, 15 of the Three Wisemen, and 20
of the Last Supper.