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The 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 century. 

Woodblock 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 Japan. 

These first 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 print evolved.  

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. 

Earliest 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”. 

Beginning 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. 

During the 19th century, some of the most exhibited and represented artists of Japanese Woodblock Prints are Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825), Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865), Utamaro 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 character. 

The 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. 

The 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. 

The 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.


 

Geishas Kabuki Theatre
Sumo Wrestling The Castles of Japan
 
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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