Monday, April 27, 2009

Ukiyo-e * Periods and Movements


Ukiyo-e ~ Floating World Picture
~ Part 2

Ukiyo-e Periods or Movements

Broadly speaking ukiyo-e art can be divided into five different art periods and movements.

The Edo Period

This is the classical period of ukiyo-e which lasted from 1603 until 1868 when the Meiji reformation took place. Although a time of military rule and oppression, and a period of world seclusion, it was also a time of relative peace, when the merchant and artisan classes flourished and emphasis was on worldly pleasures.

Ando Hiroshige 1797-1858

Katsushika Hokusai 1760-1849

The Meiji Period

At the end of the Tokugawa shogunate when the emperor was reinstated, Japan underwent considerable reform and opened up to the Western world and western ideas. It was a time of cultural shock and change.
In ukiyo-e art natural dyes were replaced by chemical aniline dyes imported from Germany and after 1900 the ukiyo-e movement had almost died out commercially. Photography had taken its place. There was a great push at this time to adopt western artistic ideals and reject traditional Japanese art forms.
Ukiyo-e prints had become so worthless that they were used as packing for the shipment of trade goods. When Europeans saw them they became a major source of inspiration for impressionist artists, Cubist and post impressionists: such as Vincent Van Gogh, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and others. This Japanese influence on European art became known by the French term Japonisme.

Kunichika Toyohara 1835-1900

Van Gogh - copy of Hiroshige's Great Bridge

La Japonaise - Monet

The Shin Hanga movement

The shin hanga (new print) movement from roughly 1910-1960, was an attempt to revive ukiyo-e as an art form. Publisher Watanabe commissioned starving artists for prints and exported the results mainly to the United States. Shin Hanga mixed traditional ukiyo-e subjects with some western elements especially the use of light and perspective, and the expression of individual moods, but remained focused on traditional themes.
The movement sought to restore Japan's picturesque traditional scenery to the hearts and minds of the Japanese people in addition to creating a sense of pride in the country's heritage. It was to also act as a buffer to the speedy westernisation of Japan.
The shin hanga movement was a successful renaissance of ukiyo-e as an art form although not as commercial art for the masses as it had originally been.
Important artists of this movement include Ito Shinsui and Kawase Hasui, but perhaps the best known and most loved was Hiroshi Yoshida, 1876-1950.

Kameido Bridge - Hiroshi Yoshida

Ito Shinsui 1898-1972

Kawase Hasui 1883-1957 - Kotsugi River

The Sosaku Hanga Movement

Traditionally in woodblock print making each of the various tasks in the production of a piece of work was allocated to different craftsman.
Sosaku Hanga
( creative prints) was a movement that suggested the artist should be responsible for each element – the design, the carving, the printing and the publishing. In addition the painting style was closer to Western ideals.
The Sosaku movement never really gained a great following and the collection of these prints has remained a niche market.

Tomikichiro Tokuriki 1902-1999

Moku Hanga

After WWII print making in Japan became more international. Western artists went to Japan to learn the old Japanese way; a number under the tutelage of Toshi Yoshida and Tomikichiro Tokuriki. Now many artists from around the world are exponents of what has become known as moku hanga.

Toshi Yoshida 1911-1995

Ryusei Okamoto 1949-

Joshua Rome 1953-

Information sourced from Wikipedia,
and the books Hiroshige by Matthi Forrer,
Shin Hanga -The new print movement of Japan by Barry Till


  1. Out of all the fabulous paintings out there you always choose the best!

  2. I have long been an admirer of Japanese art, but knew nothing of it. I am enjoying your periodic lessons a LOT! Thank you for sharing what you know.

  3. I found that Monet enthralling. I wasn't familiar with this piece at all. 'Worldly pleasures', it does come out very strongly in that image (the one above the waves). I can see a little of the Sosaku movement in your pictures, if you do not mind me saying so. Maybe it's the landscape and the symmetry (I am a fan of symmetrical painting, design and photography) that you convey in your own images. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  4. I find it so restful, peaceful and glorious over here on your blog. I just adore Japanese Art,
    I've had a lovely few minutes just enjoying. Thank you.

  5. This is a great post, Kotsugi River is so mysterious. It's amazing how much you can convey with simple lines and perfect balance of colours. Many thanks.

  6. Hi Tulsa,
    we must like the same pieces...
    Happy days

  7. Hello Tom,
    I'm glad you are getting something out of these posts. I am no expert - just learning as I go out of a passionate interest that I have in Japan...
    Happy Days

  8. Mr Cuban,
    I'll drop you a note about that interesting remark
    Happy days

  9. Hi Sarah,
    well I am glad that you can find a moment of relaxation here after your many good works...
    Happy Days

  10. Hi Polly,
    what amazes me is that it is all done by a carving and separate layers of colour. When you go looking at the prints you find the same image in many different variations depending on the printings, the inks and the age of the block.
    Happy Days

  11. Hi Delwyn

    Nice piece of learning.

    I can proudly say I have seen all the good works of Van Gogh.. ( went to the Van Gogh Musesum in Amsterdam once)

  12. Oh goodness, I just love looking at these paintings. They are sublime!

  13. Each painting is exquisite in its delicacy - what a thrill each one evokes. A very interesting and well researched post, Delwyn. Thank you so much, I learned a great deal today! (I'm stunned by the Monet. A painting I'd not seen before now - how fascinating.)

  14. Now you've made me want to know more about the Japanese woodblock prints I bought in an auction several years ago. And by the way, I've steered one of my non-blogging friends to your site. I thought she and her mother might enjoy your discussion of things "Japan," as her mother was a Japanese post-war bride of an American soldier.

  15. By the way, I just went on the Blogger main page and nominated your blog to be a Blog of Note. I treasure your blog!

  16. I was lucky enough to see Monet's "La Japonaise" in the Chicago exhibit several years ago. It is HUGE and absolutely STUNNING in person. It was my favorite of the show.

  17. What a great lesson in Japanese art. There is so much finesse and preciseness,both delicate andmysterious, everyday objects illuminated. It is pure joy. Thank you for researching and presenting this to us.

  18. Siva ram, Hi there
    Lucky you, I have not seen them in the real but one day hope to...
    Happy Days

  19. Priya,
    I had fun selecting the few for this article.
    I now have many more I would love to show you especially contemporary artists 'moku hanga'...and will write up some of their stories next.
    Happy art Days

  20. Tessa
    thanks for the kind and supportive comments. I loved doing this research because I adore the artworks. After reading Willow's comment I want to see the Monet hanging.
    Happy creating...

  21. Meri,
    Hi there Meri, I'm happy that you have introduced your friends to my humble pages.
    AND very flattered that you have nominated this blog...thank you for your ongoing support and company on this creative journey.
    Does your print have a date on it?

    Happy days my friend

  22. Willow,
    that's interesting because whenever I look at it it feels enormous...and I would love to see it too...
    happy days

  23. Rosaria,
    Good morning
    and the amazing thing is (and I keep repeating myself because it astonishes me) - is that they are wood block carvings with repeated ink layers. How do that obtain such precision, detail and perfection? that is the marvel to me - as well as the artistry of the original artist of course.

  24. I was interested to see the progression in style from the Edo Period to the Moku Hanga, especially juxtaposed with the famous European paintings influenced by Japanese style. There is a real calm in the latter landscapes.

  25. Hello Jennifer,
    There is a range of gifted artists all around the world making moku hanga and from my collection I will introduce some of them to you.
    It is interesting seeing the combination of eatern and western art ideals and styles.
    happy Days

  26. P.S. Jennifer sp 'eastern' sorry...

  27. Thank you Delwyn for this post on Ukiyo-e I am so inspired by it!..
    looks like a beautiful paddle afternoon?

    xxx Mona

  28. Hello to the beautiful Mona

    Great - can we expect some new work soon then?

    Beloved came home yesterday at 4.45 and we jumped on the boards for one of the calmest paddles we have ever had. And tonight would be the same - don't think he'll make it tho. I have been back in the Tanglewood so had 3 hours of walking this morning.
    Happy serene Autumn evening...

  29. I love the Kotsugi River. Love the cool blue, so divine!!!

  30. ...I'm sure I'm not the first to think of these prints as visual haiku...Beautiful!

  31. Yoon see,
    It was an interesting decision culling prints for this post - I had so many, but it seems many of us like these ones or maybe it is that ukiyo-e is just simply very appealing.

  32. Oliag,

    I like that description "visual haiku",
    Like haiku they are:

    simple yet complex,
    small in size yet great in impact,
    succinct and evocative

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