Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pictures Of The Floating World

Both of these Japanese woodblock prints were made in 1861 by a master printmaker of the Yokohama School, Yoshikazu Utagawa. This style of painting and printing is called Ukiyo-e, which means "Pictures of the Floating World", a reference to the artists' preferred subjects - the kabuki actors, courtesans and prostitutes and other entertainers who inhabited the Floating World. The artists also depicted modern urban life and contemporary cultural scenes.

Utagawa was born and lived his life in Edo (modern Tokyo). He worked mainly from 1850-1870 and his favorite subject was foreigners. The woodblock above is called "Foreigners Love For Children" and the one below is "Americans".

Ukiyo-e had a tremendous impact on the avant-garde artists in the French Impressionist Movement, who sought the woodblocks for their personal collections. Soon Japonisme was all the rage, with a high demand for Japanese ceramics, fabrics, glass and art of all kinds.