Ukiyo-e are Japanese woodblock prints. If you haven’t yet done the project from yesterday, consider doing a Japanese-inspired woodcut print. The most popular subjects for ukiyo-e were landscapes, like the ocean scene shown below, and performers from “the floating world,” such as geisha (the picture shown here is by Utamaro) and sumo wrestlers.
Ukiyo-e became popular in Japan in the 1620s when a lot of people were settling in cities. A class of artisans came into being and they were looking for a way to produce many copies of the same image as easily, quickly, and inexpensively as they could. This was particularly useful when it came to illustrating books. At this time, the ukiyo-e were not in color.
Prints grew in popularity, especially among people who were not wealthy enough to afford original paintings. The ukiyo-e were also used to advertise for kabuki theater.
Beginning in the 1860s, ukiyo-e could be produced in color. This involved creating several woodblock carvings (one for each color) for every picture and printing one color on top of the next. Below is an example of one of these color ukiyo-e that you have probably seen before. It is called The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai.
Towards the end of the 1800s, ukiyo-e fell out of popularity in Japan but they served as huge sources of inspiration for artists especially in Paris, such as Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Degas. This is something I did not mention when I first talked about these artists but now that you know all about ukiyo-e, expect it to come up much more often!
Just a warning, I’m afraid I may be coming down with the flu. It’s been going around and I feel the start of a cold. If it develops into the flu this may by my last post until Monday. But I certainly hope it doesn’t happen.
Return to main page.