Thursday, February 4, 2010

Some Japanese Woodblock Prints

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has one of the world's best collections of Japanese woodblock prints. They have a small portion of the collection online, available to view as super-high quality images. All the images below I have borrowed from the MFA Boston.

The prints were to the merchant class of post-feudal Japan as genre paintings were to the merchant class of the Netherlands during the Dutch Golden Age. They were often of pretty women, notable actors (in the roles for which they had won renown), beautiful landscapes, flowers, and interesting scenes. Such as Japanese soldiers are attacking a Chinese camp (see below). And since they were prints, if one was very popular, many others more could be made.

Kobayashi Kiyochika, Meiji era, 1894

Suzuki Harunobu, Edo period, ~1776-68

The Japanese generally liked prints that captured something transient, like mist, or cherry blossoms, or snow.
Utagawa Hiroshige, Edo period, 1833-34

Katsushika Hokusai, Edo period, 1834

Multiples of prints were often made, but the end result was usually different, with the colors and special effects being more complex toward the beginning of the printing and more simple toward the end. Often dramatically so. Scholars can learn when in a series a particular object was printed by comparing these characteristics. The print below, the red Mount Fuji, is actually one of the later prints, but is considered one of the more beautiful ones from this block.
Katsushika Hokusai, Edo period, ~1830–31

This is ridiculously famous. College kids all over America have this as a poster in their dorm rooms. I've seen it. That and that one van Gogh, the Cafe at Night, or whatever it is called.
Katsushika Hokusai, Edo period, ~1830–31


Mary Ann said...

The Japanese woodblock prints are just beautiful. It's great that you got to attend that workshop. Very interesting!

Ynn said...

Van Gogh s....!(Frank Uhl) These prints, howevr, are beautiful.