woodblock prints

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Art History

'Fantastic Landscapes' Surveys the Vivid Use of Color in Hokusai and Hiroshige's Woodblock Prints

July 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Yamashiro Province: The Togetsu Bridge in Mount Arashi (Yamashiro, Arashiyama Togetsukyo),” from the series Famous Places in the Sixty-Odd Provinces (Rokujuyoshu meisho zue), 1853

An exhibition opening this weekend at the Art Institute of Chicago plunges into the vast archives of renowned Japanese ukiyo-e artists Katsushika Hokusai (previously) and Utagawa Hiroshige (previously). Fantastic Landscapes brings together the vivid scenes created by the prolific printmakers through the first half of the 19th Century with a particular focus on their innovative uses of color. Peach skies, grassy bluffs in chartreuse, and their extensive applications of Prussian blue—Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” famously layers the chemical pigment—mark a broader shift in the artform. Today, the pair are largely attributed with sparking a worldwide fascination with Japanese prints.

Explore some of the woodblock works on view as part of Fantastic Landscapes below, and see them in person between July 17 and October 11. You also might enjoy this monumental book compiling Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji and Hiroshige’s delightful shadow puppets.

 

Katsushika Hokusai, “The Back of Mount Fuji Seen from Minobu River (Minobugawa Urafuji),” from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei), about 1830/33

Katsushika Hokusai, “Amida Falls in the Far Reaches of the Kisokaido (Kisoji no oku Amidagataki),” from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces (Shokoku taki meguri)

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Plum Garden at Kameido (Kameido Umeyashiki),” from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei)

Utagawa Hiroshige, “Awa Province: Naruto Whirlpools (Awa, Naruto no fuha),” from the series Famous Places in the Sixty-odd Provinces (Rokujuyoshu meisho zue), 1855

Katsushika Hokusai, “A Mild Breeze on a Fine Day (Gaifu kaisei),” from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei), c. 1830/33

Katsushika Hokusai, “Kirifuri Falls at Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province (Shimotsuke Kurokamiyama Kirifuri no taki),” from the series A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces (Shokoku taki meguri), c. 1833

 

 



Art History

Learn the Shadow Puppetry of Japan's Edo Period with Hiroshige's Delightful Woodblock Prints

June 2, 2021

Grace Ebert

Master the playful art of shadow puppetry with a little help from Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858). The prolific ukiyo-e artist, who is best known for his poetic woodblock prints of the Tōkaidō and views of Edo, also created an instructive series of omocha-e, or toy pictures intended for kids, that demonstrates how to twist your hands into a snail or rabbit or grasp a mat to mimic a bird perched on a branch. Appearing behind a translucent shoji screen, the clever figures range in difficulty from simple animals to sparring warriors and are complete with prop suggestions, written instructions for making the creatures move— “open your fingers within your sleeve to move the owl’s wings” or “draw up your knee for the fox’s back”—and guides for full-body contortions.

Prints of the eight-figure chart shown above, which Hiroshige released in 1842, are available from Flashbak, and you can explore a massive archive containing thousands of his works on The Minneapolis Institute of Art’s site. (via Present & Correct)

 

 

 



Art

Enchanting Scenes Combine Multiple Precisely Carved Woodblocks into Full-Color Prints by Tugboat Printshop

June 1, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Blue Bridge” (2020), woodcut on ivory somerset paper, 18 x 22.5 inches. All images © Tugboat Printshop, shared with permission

Valerie Lueth, who’s behind the Pittsburgh-based Tugboat Printshop (previously), continues to cultivate dreamy scenarios painstakingly printed with intricately carved woodblocks. Her recent creations include a distant truss bridge peeking through vegetation, a whimsically intertwined pair of trees—now in full color, this piece began as a black-line woodcut commissioned for an edition of Jean-Claude Grumberg’s The Most Precious of Cargoes—and a web of vines dripping with rain and jewels evoking a dreamcatcher.

After sketching with pencil on plywood blocks, Lueth hand-carves the meticulous designs with knives and gouging tools and often cuts multiple panels with slight variances for each print. In addition to building depth of color, Lueth’s sequential process yields greater highlights, shadows, and overall detail to the completed work. The lush, leafy scene comprising “Blue Bridge,” for example, is the product of four blocks coated in black, blue, green, and purple oil-based inks, which are pressed in succession to create the richly layered landscape.

Prints are available on Esty or from Tugboat’s site, and you can see more of Lueth’s process and a larger collection of her works, including a glimpse at a new floral relief in black-and-white, on Instagram.

 

Detail of “Web” (2019), woodcut on natural Kitakata paper, 20 x 16 inches

“Web” (2019), woodcut on natural Kitakata paper, 20 x 16 inches

“Blue Bridge” (2020), woodcut on ivory somerset paper, 18 x 22.5 inches

Detail of “Web” woodcuts

“Together Trees” (2020), woodcut on natural Kitakata paper, 12.5 x 9 inches

Detail of “Together Trees” (2020), woodcut on natural Kitakata paper, 12.5 x 9 inches

Detail of “Web” (2019), woodcut on natural Kitakata paper, 20 x 16 inches

Detail of “Blue Bridge” woodcut, 18 x 22.5 inches

 

 



Art

A Monumental Book Printed on Uncut Paper Celebrates Hokusai's Iconic 'Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji'

May 12, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Taschen, shared with permission

A forthcoming volume from Taschen is an homage to renowned Japanese ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and his iconic woodblock print series, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. Compiling Hokusai’s original 36 artworks and the ten pieces he created following the success of the initial collection, the XXL edition celebrates the lauded artist and his fascination with Japan’s highest mountain.

Encased in a cloth box with wooden closures, the 224-page book is layered with Japanese history and tradition in both content and form and features uncut paper and customary binding. The vivid, art historical works are paired with 114 color variations and writing by Andreas Marks—the director of the Clark Center for Japanese Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art is also behind Taschen’s volume chronicling more than two centuries of woodblock prints—who offers background on the exquisite body of work Hokusai produced throughout the Edo period when a local tourism boom positioned Mount Fuji as an enduring cultural landmark.

Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji will be released in June and is available for pre-order from Bookshop.

 

South Wind, Clear Weather (“Red Fuji”). Image © TASCHEN/Philadelphia Museum of Art

Sekiya Village on the Sumida River. Image © TASCHEN/The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 



Art

A New Book Chronicles Over Two Centuries of Japanese Woodblock Prints

December 15, 2019

Andrew LaSane

Featuring 200 prints by 89 artists, Taschen’s new book Japanese Woodblock Prints (1680- 1983) is a journey through two centuries of the art form. Ranging from depictions of everyday life to kabuki and erotica, the XXL edition is a 622-page art history lesson and a high resolution visual compendium rolled into one.

For this tome, Taschen spent three years reproducing woodblock prints from museums and private collections from around the world. Written by Andreas Marks, head of the Japanese and Korean Art Department at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the book is divided chronologically into seven chapters beginning with the 17th century early masters and concluding with the Shin-hanga movement. Large, vibrant images of demons, villages, confidants, and landscapes fill the book’s pages, complemented by essays and captions that reveal more about the artists and techniques. There are 17 fold-outs, as well as a full appendix listing the artists, the titles of the woodblock prints, and editorial notes.

To add this comprehensive edition to your art book library, head over to Taschen.

 

 



Art Design

A Project to Immortalize David Bowie in Traditional Woodblock Prints

June 7, 2018

Johnny Waldman

David Bowie, who passed away in 2016, had a very special connection – some may even call it a “love affair” – with Japan. He originally developed his affinity after taking an interest in Kabuki and was heavily influenced by the exaggerated gestures, costumes and make-up. He later went on to work with fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto on many iconic costumes, as well as with musicians like Tomoyasu Hotei and the filmmaker Nagisa Oshima. In a sense, the love affair has come full circle and now a project has been announced to immortalize David Bowie in the form of ukiyo-e woodblock prints that depict Bowie in elements of kabuki.

Two unique prints were announced last month from Ukiyo-e Project, an organization that creates contemporary Ukiyo-e based on elements of pop culture. Each of the prints are inspired by iconic photo shoots of Bowie, which have been translated to woodblock print by ukiyo-e artist Masumi Ishikawa.

One of these is inspired by Brian Duffy’s photograph of a bare-chested Bowie with a red lightning bolt scrawled across his face the cover of “Aladdin Sane” (1973). For the ukiyo-e print, the artist imagines Bowie as Kidomaru, a fictitious snake charmer from the Kamakura period.

The second print was inspired by Terry O’Neill’s “Diamond Dogs” promotional photograph (1974) in which Bowie is posing with a large barking dog. For this ukiyo-e print the artist imagines Bowie as Takezawa Toji, a magician and entertainer who was often depicted by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

The prints will be on display, and available for sale (priced at 100,000 yen) at the Marc Jacobs-owned BOOKMARC in Omotesando from June 23 – July 1, 2018. The final prints will be displayed alongside photos of David Bowie, as well as other materials that show the process of creating the woodblock prints. (Syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)

left: David Bowie, Aladdin Sane, Eyes Open, 1973© Courtesy of the Duffy Archive | right: Terry O’Neill – David Bowie Diamond Dogs, 1974 © Courtesy Mouche Gallery