Monday, January 21, 2008

Ukiyo-e...Japanese Woodblock Prints

The Nagoya Boston Museum of Fine Arts has a ukiyo-e exhibition which has just begun.There are 150 odd woodblock prints,printed books and paintings from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Coming hard on the heels of the Toulouse Lautrec show which piqued my interest in ukiyo-e I ambled down to Kanayama last weekend.
Ukiyo-e or "pictures of the floating world" depict everyday life in eighteenth century Japan.Scenes from teahouses,brothels and kabuki theatre are on show as are prints of insects,sumo wrestlers,landscapes,actors and animals.
One section of the show that attracted a lot of attention explained the process of print making.First an artist copies the original design onto transparent paper.An artisan then carved it on one or more blocks of cherry wood.A publisher then prints the impressions on a robust type of paper called hosh,made from the mulberry tree bark.(Collins Big Book of Art pg 208).All the tools,chisels,cherry blocks and brushes are also on display giving the viewer some idea of the skills and time involved.

The exhibition is set out in chronological order so you can see the development of the prints from simple black and white monochrome ones to the later more colourful and contrasting prints where a separate block was prepared for each colour.
All the well-known names have examples of their work on show.Kitagawa Utamoro known for his depiction of women,birds and animals and Suzuki Harunobu noted for his picturs of actors and lovers appear.Landscape prints by Hokusai and Hiroshige appear including examples from his Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji series.
Ukiyo-e was often used for illustrations in books and used as posters for kabuki theatres.Looking at some of them its easy to see the connection between them and Toulouse Lautrecs posters.Some of the poses and composition are very similiar...see last weeks review.
For my part I found this exhibition educational and interesting.Given the number of other gallery goers I wasnt alone.I was impressed at how well preserved and fresh some of the prints remained.Many of the colours still looked striking despite the age of the prints.
The show runs till April 6th and admission is 1,200 yen an adult.The exhibition is on two floors so you have to take the escalator up to see the final 30 or 40 exhibits.Theres also an English language sheet available for those like me who cant read the Japanese captions.

1 comment:

Kuniyoshi_Cat said...

Doing some research for my blog and this is very informative. I'm interested in the influence of ukiyo-e on Western artists and I will likely refer back to your blog article. Thanks!!

Matt aka Kuniyoshi Cat
Check out >>> Blog on ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi