Takato Yamamoto Adds His Twist to Ukiyo-e Art


One of the most interesting and provocative artists I’ve found lately is Takato Yamamoto. If you’ve seen his art creations, you already know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I would recommend investigating this Japanese artist and his growing popularity over the last several years.

Creating Heisei Estheticism

After graduating from Tokyo Zokei University, Takato Yamamoto began experimentation with the Ukiyo-e Pop art methods. From there, his creative evolution led him to develop his own unique style, which he branded “Heisei Estheticism.” The style he created combines Japanese ukiyo-e painting influence with Western gothic art, portraying an incredibly unique and dark but beautiful effect.

Takato Yamamoto was born in Akita Prefecture, Japan, in 1960. His last name of Yamamoto meaning ‘one who lives in the mountains.’ After working as a commercial illustrator for Fujitsu and eventually becoming a painter and visual artist, he began to develop his own flare for a cultural method tracing back hundreds of years.

The Ukiyo-e Style

If you’re unfamiliar with Japanese art, then we should take a minute to go back to the 17th century, where the genre of Ukiyo-e began. The term “Ukiyo-e” translates to “pictures of the floating world.” In Japan, this art method was used to produce woodblock paintings with scenes of historical events, folk tales, landscapes, and travel scenes. 17th-century Ukiyo-e artwork also featured female beauties, sumo wrestlers, and actors.

In the late 1600s, ukiyo-e works became popular by a well-known artist named Hishikawa Moronobu. Many great Japanese artists followed in Moronobu’s footsteps, taking the ukiyo-e style to the next level. Perhaps the most famous and well-known ukiyo-e artist was Katsushika Hokusai, who created ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa,’ known as one of the most recognizable pieces of artwork in the world. The work of art pictures a gigantic wave off Sagami Bay’s coast with Mount Fuji in the background.

To give you an idea of the importance and significance of Hokusai’s ukiyo-e style, ‘Great Wave’ work of art, Vincent van Gogh was known as a great admirer of Hokusai. It was said that Van Gogh remarked the painting had “a terrifying emotional impact.”

Modern-day artist Keizaburo Matsuzaki recreating the Ukiyo-e woodblock printmaking style. The intense details and methodical technique for this incredible style of Japanese artwork really need to be seen to be fully appreciated. A viewer in the YouTube comments section remarked, “and I can’t even stick the screen protector on my phone.” That describes my feelings exactly as I watch this incredible artist.

Takato Yamamoto Reinventing Ukiyo-e, The Floating World

Understanding the historical impact of the ukiyo-e artistic style in Japanese culture, you can now begin to appreciate a modern-day artist bringing back a three-hundred-year-old method and incorporating his own twist. Takato Yamamoto is said to have built on the ukiyo-e method, only bringing it into the modern-day with his ‘Heisei Estheticism’ style.

Paintings such as ‘Twin Roses’ sold for nearly $80,000 at a Sotheby’s auction over ten years ago. Sotheby describes the work showing two figures as “dissolving away into a blue and black abyss, caught in between this world and the next.” Much like a Rorschach inkblot test can produce a wide-ranging response to every person, a Takato Yamamoto work has the potential to allow the viewer to feel whatever he or she desires when they look at the art.

Takato Yamamoto combines beautiful yet grotesque themes. Intriguing and convoluted, dark and full of life. Calmness but with an unnerving infusion of emotion. As one art historian has described Yamamoto, “he’s constructed a painted labyrinth that conceals as it reveals.”

Takato Yamamoto Books and Japanese Illustration

Takato Yamamoto publishes many of his works in a series of books over the last several years in a consistent format growing in popularity among his fans. With each new book released by Yamamoto, a new theme is explored relating to his recent explorations and artistic emotions.

In 2018, an exhibition was held in Shibuya, Tokyo, to commemorate his 20-year career. You can find Yamamoto books such as “Necrophantasmagoria,” “Scarlet Maniera,” and “Nosferatu” on AbeBooks or Amazon for right around $100.

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Dedicated fans of Takato Yamamoto collect his books with each featuring a common theme to his latest artistic inspirations.

Takato Yamamoto is truly an original artist pushing the limits of what’s possible. Yamamoto combines rich Japanese history and culture in such a delicate and respectful way yet punches you in the face with it, by adding his own horrific yet beautiful twist. It’s tough to describe the range of emotion when viewing Takato’s works. It’s to be determined by each viewer what emotions Takato Yamamoto delivers.

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Fans from Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit enjoy discussing the cultural significance of Takato Yamamoto while giving their personal interpretation of his work. You could say, without a doubt, works by Takato Yamamoto are in the eye of the beholder.