Ukiyo-e

Ukiyo-e

Mitsuki Okino, Journalist

Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese art which flourished from the 17th through 19th centuries. Its artists produced woodblock prints and paintings of such subjects as female beauties kabuki actors, and sumo wrestlers’ scenes from history and folk tales, travel scenes and landscapes, flora and fauna. The Floating World, as the pleasure districts of Edo (modern day Tokyo) were called, it describes the sensory pleasures of urban life, but also offers a bittersweet reminder of the fleeting nature of all worldly delights. It’s commonly said that in Edo, Japan, anyone could own a masterpiece Ukiyo-e print for about the price of a bowl of noodles. While this claim oversimplifies, it is true that by the 17th century, Ukiyo-e printmakers innovated centuries-old woodblock text printing techniques to create colorful picture prints that were distributed widely for popular consumption. Some of the greatest Japanese artists of their time—Ando Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Toyokuni III, and Keisai Eisen among them—became known primarily as woodblock print designers in the Ukiyo-e style. In the 19th century, Ukiyo-e printmakers also began to focus on landscape, creating series such as Hokusai’s famed Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. Ukiyo-e also had a profound impact on European artists around this time—its flattened perspective and innovative compositions inspired artists such as Mary Cassatt, Vincent Van Gogh, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as the Japonisme movement in art and design.

 

Artists rarely carved their own woodblocks for printing. Rather, production was divided between the artist who designed the prints, the carver who cuts the woodblocks, the printer who inks and presses the woodblocks onto hand-made paper, and the publisher, who financed, promoted, and distributed the works. Taccia Ukiyo-e Houdai-Koiai is a dark indigo ink and shows the image of the famous Great Wave Off Kanagawa with Mt. Fuji in the background. This is another dramatically shading ink from a bright cerulean to dark blue with a muted sheen.

 

Recently, Ukiyo-e is really expensive now. However, in Japan, there is some museums of Ukiyo-e and there is a lot of beautiful Ukiyo-e. Sometimes, some museums teach lesson that customer can make own Ukiyo-e. If you go to Japan, you can visite Ukiyo-e museums and enjoy it.