Japanese Woodblock Print is an art form, which highlights
flowing, curved outlines, simplistic forms as well as the
detailing of flat areas containing color. This form of art has not only existed for a long time in
Asian history, but it has also deeply impacted artists in
both Europe and North America throughout the 19th
printing was first used in Japan in the 8th century to print
religious texts. Buddhists traveling from China brought
these texts, as well as the printing method itself, to
prints were made in a single color using only Sumi ink. The
world would have to wait nearly 900 years for the first
colored prints to appear. Early color prints were made using
a single block and black ink.
The colors were hand painted by workers in the print shops.
It was only when the popularity of these prints exceeded the
production capacity of the workshops that the true woodblock
To meet the
rising demand, the printers employed master carvers to make
individual blocks for each of the colors in the print. Many
of the finer woodblock prints contained 15 or more colors,
requiring 15 different expertly carved wooden print blocks.
Each of these blocks had to be carved with great precision
to ensure that the colored sections met perfectly.
among these images were private calendars that were printed
without first by Suzuku Hornbook (1725-1770), and later with
other various artists. One of the most famous of Suzuku Hornbook’s print was the
image "The Køya Jewel River”.
in the mid-1760s, the newly discovered color prints were
sold commercially; their depictions included themes that
were both classical as well as contemporary; these themes
included literary scenes, the lives of celebrities, women of
beauty, travel scenes, erotic scenes, as well as actors
in their different dramatic roles.
the 19th century, some of the most exhibited and
represented artists of Japanese Woodblock
Prints are Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825), Utagawa Kunisada
Kitagawa (1750-1806), and
Andø Hiroshige (1797-1858).
The techniques that were used were varied, but were absolutely critical to the final print.
While working, the artist is required to keep a very
specific goal in mind while creating the blocks.
This mindset should be in line with the Japanese
tradition of demonstrating the precise direction of the
brush that would be painting the picture, so that the
features of the original piece, as well as the written
characters, are not in any way destroyed.
So from the artist’s point of view, the direction
of the knife should match identically the direction of the
brush, which initially inscribed the picture.
This being said, it is easy to understand that it
takes an extremely skilled hand to replicate the unique and
exact features captured in the originals, while
simultaneously demonstrating the artist’s own skill and
wood that is used for Japanese Woodblock Prints is selected
very carefully. The woods considered include only very specific types of
trees, and only certain textures of wood within those
different species. No
matter what, the texture of the wood must be extremely fine
and very hard.
differences between old and modern methods of Japanese
woodcutting are as follows: the method of cutting on wood -
as the ancient woodcuts is deeper than the ones that are
made today. However, though more shallow, the present day
pieces allow for much greater detail.
majority of the woodblock prints were produced in the cities
of Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo (formerly Edo). Workshops in
Kyoto still produce woodblock prints today, which is the
source of the prints we offer for sale on our site.