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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 Association

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 Card contest

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.


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