A 20th century Japanese painter and printmaker, Sanzo Wada studied Western style art techniques at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. He then completed his education in Europe, from 1907 to 1915. As well, he apparently traveled and worked in India and Burma at this time. In 1927, Sanzo Wada was appointed a full member Japan's Imperial Arts Academy and began teaching at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. One of Wada's best known accomplishments is his "Sketches of Showa Era Occupations" that he initiated in 1938. Wada wanted to make a series of prints that expressed the rapid modernization that Japan was experiencing in the 1930s. As an example of this modernization, he chose to depict workers in Showa-era occupations, not just those occupations of recent times, but also those traditional occupations that were gradually disappearing. Some of the professions included: Monks, Cormorant Fishermen, Dancers and Zen Priests, Gasoline Servicemen, Professional Tennis Players, Boxers and Salvation Army workers. After completing forty-eight woodcuts this popular series was suspended in 1943, due to severe shortages created by World War Two. This series was resurrected in 1954 and reprinted, along with a few additional occupations. These prints provide important historical and artistic information concerning the troubled era of mid-twentieth century Japan. This print in our exhibition is from the original 1939 first edition series. The included descriptive sheet for this print reads: “Aviation, which carries men over sea and mountain, field and town, represents the pinnacle of modern mechanical civilization, and the aviator is idolized as the greatest sportsman of the race and the pet of the age. Aviators are adding to the welfare of mankind by cutting down distances in the world. Brimming over with abundant sentience, they make their own sharp nerves their earth and tune in with their daily increasing speed. They are truly the kinds of the air, the rulers of the earth.”


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