e. e. cummings suite: twenty mezzotint color variants of “Twenty-Two Cherries” plus Magenta Cherries

Hamaguchi Yōzō is recognized as one of the foremost mezzotint artists of the twentieth century and is particularly recognized for his development of color mezzotint. First produced in 1988, Twenty-Two Cherries is one of his most well-known compositions, and the e. e. cummings suite brings together twenty-one different color variations of the design along with a preface by the publisher. The suite is named for the American poet e. e. cummings (1894–1962), whom Hamaguchi met in Paris during the 1930s. The poet eventually gifted the artist a specialist mezzotint tool, a rocker from the United States, which contributed to Hamaguchi’s enormous success in his chosen medium.

After a number of years in Japan and France, Hamaguchi relocated to the US in 1981. From this time until his repatriation to Japan in 1996, his prints were published by the Vorpal Gallery, owned and operated by Muldoon Elder (b. 1935). The color variations of the e. e. cummings suite were produced under the artist’s supervision at the Vorpal Gallery from 1991 until 1995. Each print in the suite is named after one of the first twenty lines from cummings’s 1940 poem “anyone lived in a pretty how town,” with one additional color variation, Magenta Cherries. Only a handful of editions of the suite were issued with a portfolio box and Elder’s preface, and this set is from the publisher’s own estate.

In 2019, the museum acquired eleven copperplates used in the production of Twenty-Two Cherries, three as part of The Kenneth and Kiyo Hitch Collection of Modern and Contemporary Japanese Prints, and eight donated by William and Roberta Stein. The Steins offered the e. e. cummings suite in memory of Ken Hitch (1915–2013). With the acquisition of the plates and portfolio of the e. e. cummings suite, the museum can tell the rich story of Twenty-Two Cherries from its production to its final presentation.

Mezzotint of vertical row of magenta and blue cherries on a black background.e. e. cummings suite: twenty mezzotint color variants of “Twenty-Two Cherries” plus Magenta Cherries
Hamaguchi Yōzō (1909–2000, Hirogawa)
Japan, Showa era, 1991–95
Mezzotint; ink on paper
Gift of William and Robert Stein in memory of Ken Hitch, a great collector
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, S2021.4.1–21