Japanese Woodblock prints

These amazing traditional woodblock print from 19th century Japan illustrate the extent to which Japan westernised after the Meiji Restoration of 1968.

writing A-level history coursework, on Japan’s transition between the 19th and 20th century and its rise to world power, these woodblock prints became a welcome relief to pages of intense historical debate.

Woodblock prints were originated in the early 8th century to disseminate texts Buddhist scriptures. These printed designs on paper and silk became a convenient method of reproducing written texts. In the 18th century Polychrome prints were made using a separate carved block for each color, these could be up to twenty. To print with precision a system of placing two cuts on the edge of each block to serve as alignment guides was employed. Paper made from the inner bark of mulberry trees was favored, as it was strong enough to withstand numerous rubbings on the various woodblocks and sufficiently absorbent to take up the ink and pigments. Reproductions, sometimes numbering in the thousands, could be made until the carvings on the woodblocks became worn.

Japan orientated itself with the west as a way of defending its independence and this became the primary content of late 18th century prints. “Throwing off Asia” in a policy Datsu-A Ron they followed a course of westernisation in order for its international status to be orientated with the west. These images depict how Japan westernised on such a rapid and impressive scale.

"Complete Picture of a Steamship: Scenery of Uraga from the Sea" by Sadahide, 1863 [Y0070] Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

“Complete Picture of a Steamship: Scenery of Uraga from the Sea” by Sadahide, 1863

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

"Steam train between Tokyo and Yokohama" by Utagawa Hiroshige III, 1875 [2000.549] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Steam train between Tokyo and Yokohama” by Utagawa Hiroshige III, 1875

Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Famous Places in Tokyo: True View of the Post Office at Edobashi” by Kobayashi Ikuhide, 1889 [2000.509] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Famous Places in Tokyo: True View of the Post Office at Edobashi” by Kobayashi Ikuhide, 1889
Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Bosto

“Famous Places in Tokyo: Picture of Azuma Bridge and a Distant View of a Torpedo Explosion” by Inoue Tankei, July 1888 [2000.395] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Famous Places in Tokyo: Picture of Azuma Bridge and a Distant View of a Torpedo Explosion” by Inoue Tankei, July 1888

Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Illustration of Singing by the Plum Garden” by Toyohara Chikanobu, 1887 [res_53_82] Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Illustration of Singing by the Plum Garden” by Toyohara Chikanobu, 1887

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Illustration of the Imperial Diet of Japan” by Gotō Yoshikage, 1890

Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Reference –

ocw.mit.edu/ans7870/21f/21f.027/throwing_off_asia_01/toa_essay02.html

www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ukiy/hd_ukiy.htm

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Japanese Woodblock prints

  1. Pingback: Japanese Woodblock prints | A CERTAIN MEASURE OF PERFECTION

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s