Naoko Matsubara: The Solitude Portfolio

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Now a resident of Oakville, Ontario, the woodcut artist Naoko Matsubara (b. 1937) was born on the island of Shikoku in Japan and was raised in the Shinto tradition. She trained in the fine arts in both Japan and the United States, first coming to the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar in 1960 and staying to teach at the Pratt Institute and the University of Rhode Island. Not long after producing the Solitude portfolio, Matsubara moved to Canada, where she has continued to produce woodcuts and illustrated books. Her works are in the collections of numerous museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of the Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the British Museum, and the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art. Matsubara’s artistic influences include traditional Japanese prints (17th–20th-century ukiyo-e prints being the most well known in the West) as well as—especially due to her studio assistantship in the 1960s with German illustrator Fritz Eichenberg—the stark woodcuts of German Expressionism.

Matsubara was selected to illustrate the 1971 Aquarius Press edition of Henry David Thoreau’s fifth chapter of Walden because, according to the editors, her “philosophy of life and language of artistic expression exemplify the same forceful individuality and inner strength of the Thoreau text.” All of the prints from the portfolio are on display, along with excerpts from Thoreau’s chapter.

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