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The Edo Peroid & Ukio E
Katsushika Hokusai was born in 1760, half-way through the Edo period (1603 – 1868) in Japan. He was born into one of the four classes in Japan (Samurai, then peasants, artisans and mer
chants); Hokusai was destined to become an artist. Ukiyo-e was at the time the most popular form of art in Japan. It involves woodblock printing in a very simple way; excluding such western principles such as perspective. The word Ukiyo-e is a pun on the
Buddhist word for ‘suffering world’ which is also pronounced ukiyo. Literally translated Ukiyo-e means ‘pictures of a floating world’.
Buddhism believes in a world above our own, in which everything is ...view middle of the document...
The artists would sit and watch a Kabuki performance and scramble to produce an artwork while the engraver and printer stood close
by. The temples, Kabuki theatre and the fact that the prints were cheap to buy (a print cost approximately the price of a bowl of noodles), accelerated the Ukiyo-e prints into mainstream art and eventually dominating Japanese culture.
As the prints were ch
eap to buy for the first time in history, peasants began to buy them. This new market demanded illustrations of a better, perfect world. Thus the subject matter of Ukiyo-e prints ranged from erotic pictures of beautiful women (‘bi jinga’) to landscapes to
famous battles and wars. Many of the prints were printed on rice paper; except for those who could afford them, they were printed on silk (silk was considered to be extremely rare and valuable in Japan at the time).
Other from Hokusai, there were many othe
r famous Ukiyo-e artists of the era. Kitagawa Utamaro (1753 – 1806) for instance was best known for his depictions of ‘Beautiful Women from the Tea Rooms’. He also produced some of the best book covers in the Edo period. Another example of an artist from
the Ukiyo-e period was Sharaku. One of his most famous prints was of Arashi Ryuzo as the servant Ukiyo Matahei and Otani Hiroji III as the servant Tosa no Matahei.
Post Modern Frame
he term that best describes the Japanese influence on the ‘outside’ world is Japonisme. It was created in 1876 by the French journalist and art-critic Philippe Burty. It describes the west’s obsession with anything Japanese.
The first man to bring Japan to the west was Commander Perry. He represented the USA trying
to negotiate the end of the Sakoku (‘secluded or closed country’) policy. What he saw when he arrived in Japan were prints being sold in the street and specialized schools such as the Utagawa School set up to teach printmaking. Perry was amazed with this
and brought a lot of prints back home to the USA with him. This was the start of the west’s obsession with Japan and especially Ukiyo-e.
The first public display of Japanese culture was at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1867. People came fr
om all around Europe to see what lied on the other side of the Pacific (or Asia, depending on how you look at it). Shops selling woodblock prints, kimonos, fans and Japanese antiques started to appear all over Paris.
Many artists such as Edgar Degas, Toulo
use-Lautrec, Paul Gaugin and Claude Monet were inspired by Ukiyo-e. In 1875 Monet made ‘La Japonaise’ which depicted his wife wearing a Japanese Kimono and holding a fan. Later he called his painting ‘trash’ compared to the real Ukiyo-e. One of the most i
spired artists was Vincent Van Gogh. He first saw Japanese prints in 1885 in Antwerp where he bought a few. When Van Gogh moved to Montmartre there was a small shop which sold Ukiyo-e prints below his apartment. It was called the Bing Gallery after its ow
ner Samuel Bing. Mr. Bing kept...