Umetaro Azechi

Old Man in a Mountain Hut, 1953, Minneapolis Institute of Art

In Japanese art, Umetaro Azechi stands out not just for his striking woodblock prints but also for how his passion for mountaineering profoundly influenced his work. Azechi, a self-taught artist who only began his artistic career in his 40s, brought the majesty of the mountains to life on paper, merging his two loves in a unique synthesis of art and adventure.


Umetaro Azechi cover, BRUTUS 11_01_2008, Sanpo Studios Archive
Recreation of Azechi’s home studio, BRUTUS 11_01_2008, Sanpo Studios Archive
His prints, characterized by bold lines and simple forms, echo the rugged, unyielding nature of the mountains he loved so dearly. Each piece tells a story of his adventures, capturing the essence of the peaks and valleys he traversed. This deep connection to the mountains set Azechi apart, infusing his art with a sense of authenticity and passion that few could replicate.
Toragabuchi, Museum of Fine Arts
Mt. Fuji #2, Artelino
Japanese Alps, Museum of Fine Arts 

Mountain Man Calls, Artelino
Sleep on the Mountain, Museum of Fine Arts

Less known is Azechi's significant role in the Sosaku Hanga movement, emphasizing complete artist involvement in printmaking. This movement resonated with Azechi's hands-on approach in his art and mountaineering endeavors. This philosophy allowed him to seamlessly blend his artistic vision with his experiences on the mountains, creating prints that were visually stunning and deeply personal.
Mountain Man and Bird, Artelino
Mountain Climber with Head Turned to One Side, Museum of Fine Arts
Mountain Guide No.1, Museum of Fine Arts

Umetaro Azechi's book "Yama ABC" is a unique and intriguing piece that combines his love for mountaineering with his artistic talents. The title, 山のABC, translates to "Mountain ABC," reflecting its focus on the mountains, a central theme in much of Azechi's work. Essentially an alphabet book, but instead of targeting young readers, it's crafted for mountain lovers and art enthusiasts. Each letter of the alphabet is associated with a mountain-related term, accompanied by Azechi's distinctive woodblock prints.

For Azechi, mountains weren't just a subject to paint; they were a passion. "Yama ABC" is more than a book; it's a personal testament to his love for the mountains.

Azechi‘s work bridges the gap between art and the outdoor experience.
Mountain ABC by Umetaro Azechi, Sanpo Studios Archive

Azechi's journey is a remarkable example of how an artist's passions can shape and define their work, offering a unique window into the soul of an artist who found his muse in the mountain wilderness. His legacy in Japanese art is a testament to the power of combining one's life experiences with artistic expression.

Watch a short video about Umetaro Azechi
Purchase your own Umetaro Azechi print
Get a closer look at Azechi’s studio


More stories