Friday, March 11, 2011


Ukiyo-e (浮世絵 literally "pictures of the floating world") (Japanese pronunciation: [ukijo.e] or [ukijoe]) is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints (orwoodcuts) and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theatre, and pleasure quarters. It is the main artistic genre of woodblock printing in Japan.

Usually the word ukiyo is literally translated as "floating world" in English, referring to a conception of an evanescent world, impermanent, fleeting beauty and a realm of entertainments (kabuki, courtesans, geisha) divorced from the responsibilities of the mundane, everyday world; "pictures of the floating world", i.e. ukiyo-e, are considered a genre unto themselves.

Ukiyo-e prints were made using the following procedure:

  • The artist produced a master drawing in ink
  • An assistant, called a hikkō, would then create a tracing (hanshita) of the master
  • Craftsmen glued the hanshita face-down to a block of wood and cut away the areas where the paper was white. This left the drawing, in reverse, as a relief print on the block, but destroyed the hanshita.
  • This block was inked and printed, making near-exact copies of the original drawing.
  • A first test copy, called a kyōgo-zuri, would be given to the artist for a final check.
  • The prints were in turn glued, face-down, to blocks and those areas of the design which were to be printed in a particular color were left in relief. Each of these blocks printed at least one color in the final design.
  • The resulting set of woodblocks were inked in different colors and sequentially impressed onto paper. The final print bore the impressions of each of the blocks, some printed more than once to obtain just the right depth of color.


Post a Comment


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More