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Sadao Watanabe (1913 – 1996)
People visit the Stable, 1962

Stencil: natural pigments and ink on paper. Print 48/50
80cm x 59cm
Loaned by Trustees of the Methodist Modern Art Collection
Biographical Details
Sadao Watanabe was born in Tokyo in 1913 and he died there in 1996. Watanabe’s father died when he was 10 years old. He left school early, and became an apprentice in a dyer’s shop. Through a neighbour, he was introduced to Christianity, and was baptized at the age of 17. After working for some years with a textile printer designing kimono fabrics, he came across Serizawa Keisuke, from whom he learnt the ancient Okinawan technique of stencil-dying using hand-made paper and natural pigments…
In 1958, he began to make an impact in the US by winning first prize at the Modern Japanese Print Exhibition in New York City. His work soon became popular, and was acquired by leading museums. Despite his growing international reputation, Watanabe’s aim was to reach his fellow countrymen with the Christian message. Not only is his work executed in traditional Japanese medium, but his biblical themes are depicted in a Japanese setting. He liked his prints to hang in ordinary places where people gather together, “because it was to them that Jesus brought the gospel”. This, together with the use of natural material, is characteristic of mingei: art for the people and by the people…
(From Seeing the Spiritual: A Guide to the Methodist Modern Art Collection)
People visit the Stable
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.”
Luke 2:15-16
Watanabe completed several series of nativity prints. In this picture, people gather to see the baby, expressing, perhaps, serious purpose rather than great excitement. It is not clear if they are shepherds or other members of the local community. For us, they represent ordinary Christians coming to show homage to the Christ Child.
(From Seeing the Spiritual: A Guide to the Methodist Modern Art Collection)