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YOSHIWARA PLEASURE QUARTER IN PRINTS

During the Edo period, Japan was known for its conservative military government, which worked hard to provide the people with a place and time of peace.  However, as a means of keeping the peace, the people were broken down into four distinct groups, which included in order of importance, warriors, farmers, artisans, and finally, merchants.  In fact, cities were provided with walled-in areas specifically for running theaters, teahouses, and brothels, quite a mix. 

This era also brought about some newly wealthy civilians, which were comprised primarily of artisans and merchants, better known in Japan as Chonin.  Over time, this group of people began to gain strength economically, and soon was so powerful that they actually had power in the creation of “pleasure quarters” located within the various entertainment districts. 

Keep in mind that these pleasure quarters along with entertainment had a dramatic effect on the Edo period.  For instance, women, visitors, and actors going into these districts were cause for celebration.  With woodblock prints, paintings, and novellas in the prime, these people made great subjects to capture.  In fact, in many ways, the pleasure quarters and entertainment districts were glorified.  By expressing the details in woodblock print, painters and printmakers were able to make money, simply by depicting images of Kabuki actors, well-known romantic getaways, and of course, seductive patrons, especially beautiful women. 

Considering that Kabuki actors wore colorful and elaborate costumes, they made an obvious choice for painters.  Taking the heavy makeup and bringing the actors alive in relation to legends, traditions, classical stories, and historical events, were something that grew in popularity among the people of Japan.  In addition, beautiful and erotic women also captured the imagination and creativity of the painters in which for the first time, the artisans were able to take everyday people and life and make a good living on it. 

Most of the work seen in the Edo Period was in the Ukiyo-e style, which represented a final phase in the long transition of Japanese painting.  Remember, while early painting and drawing focused more on people, painters using the Ukiyo-e style maintained focus on landscapes and scenery.  However, soon painters took another interest in the form of indoor life.  During the 17th century, one of the most cherished subjects remained houses of pleasure.  While many places were painted, one in particular stayed the most prominent, the Yoshiwara quarter of Edo.  Then during the Kanbun era, which began in 1661 and lasted until 1671, seductive courtesans and female actors of Yoshiwara were sought after for individual portraits.

For some reason, the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter featuring actors and courtesans appealed to the majority of consumers, specifically when made into affordable woodblock prints.  However, early versions of woodblock prints featured only things such as Buddha and Buddhist texts.  Then by the 18th century, this changed in which depictions of actors and courtesans were most popular.  By 1765, technology changed, now making it possible to create single sheet prints using a wide variety of colors.  Unfortunately, while Yoshiwara pleasure quarter prints were in high demand for quite some time, a decline began during the latter part of the 18th century.


Read more about Japanese Woodblock Prints:
  Japanese Woodblock Prints   Ukiyo-e   Toyokuni Utagawa   Eisen Kikugawa   Hiroshige Ando   Utamaro Kitigawa

 

Visit our online store for dozens of Japanese Woodblock Prints

Click here to see our current selection.
 
The Great Wave by Hokusai
The Great Wave by Hokusai
Code:fw1002
Price:$27.95
Kabuki by Utagawa
Kabuki by Utagawa
Code:fw1121
Price:$27.95
3 Beauties by Utamaro
3 Beauties by Utamaro
Code:fw1118
Price:$27.95
General in Battle by Utagawa
General in Battle by Utagawa
Code:fw1120
Price:$27.95
Mt Fuji by Hiroshige
Mt Fuji by Hiroshige
Code:fw1010
Price:$27.95
 

 


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