Ukiyo-e is the Japanese art of painting in woodblocks and has its origins in the late sixteenth century.
Ukiyo-e is translated as “pictures of the floating/ephemeral” or “sorrowful world”, because it was said that the artists depicted the activities of a transient (floating), but therefore enjoyable world.
The major appreciators of this art were middle-class people in all Japan, but mostly in Edo (actual Tokyo). They decorated their homes with these woodblock prints with typical subjects like beautiful women, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, daily scenes, landscapes, birds and flowers.
They were produced in collaboration with the painter/designer , the carver of the woodblocks, and the printer.
The earliest prints were monochromatic. The lines defining the depicted element were printed, and even when artists started to colour the prints, the lines continued to be printed.
In the Meiji Period, with the influence of the western technology such as photography, japanese people was not interested on buying ukiyo-e pictures so the demand decreased, but gained popularity in the Western World with the impressionists artists, such as Van Gogh, Monet and others.
Ukiyo-e has represented Japan in many ways over the years. As a country with so much tradition, many of the places that were captured in wood print images, more than three centuries ago, are still possible to find more or less as they were back then.
There are many places in Japan where you can find ukiyo-e woodprints , such as Tokyo National Museum, Ota Memorial Museum of Art, Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, Hokusai Museum ( where Hokusai’s most famous woodprint “Great Wave off Kanagawa” is exposed) among others.
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