Sôsaku-hanga ("creative prints") is an art movement which first developed - beside shin-hanga - in the early 20th century. Creative print artists are motivated by a desire for self-expression, they see the world as it is and emphasize also creating art for art's sake, while Shin-hanga artists still work in the tradition of Ukiyo-e, dealing with subjects like beautiful women (bijinga), kabuki actors (yakusha-e) etc.
The strict separation of the single working steps (drawing, carving and printing), which was - following the Ukiyo-e tradition - still used in the Shin-hanga movement, was mostly renounced by the Sôsaku-hanga artists. Following European tradition the principles of "self-drawn" (jiga), "self-carved" (jikoku) and "self-printed" (jizuri) were advocated by the creative print artists. Beside the technique of woodblock printing, etching and lithography were used as well.
Artists of the early Sôsaku-hanga movement during the Taishô- and early Shôwa period had been - beside others: Kawanishi Hide (1894-1965), Onchi Kôshirô (1891-1955) and Katsuhira Tokushi (1904-1971).
It was after Second World War when the creative print movement gained international awareness with the artists Azechi Umetaro (1902-1999), Kosaka Ryûji (1912-1972), Sekino Jun’ichirô (1914-1988), Saito Kiyoshi (1907-1997), Maki Haku (1924-2000), Ikeda Shûzô (1922-2004) and many others.
After 1950 abstract art found its way into the creative prints, e.g. with the artists Tajima Hiroyuki (1911-1984), Maki Haku (1924-2000) and Okamura Kichiemon (1916-2002).
Contemporary Japanese prints of modern art show a great diversity in subject matter and style. Just to mention a few characteristics: The influence of photography and new media, blurring of the line between fine art and commercial media and the synthesis of traditional subjects and abstract art (e.g. the depiction of calligraphy or folk art (mingei) by Maki Haku and Okamura Kichiemon).