Japanese Prints

This Friday, we’re responding to a follower request for some Japanese prints. Here are a few from our collection.

An actor in a costume and stage makeup looks off to the left. The backdrop behind him shows people walking across a bridge to a village.
Utagawa Kunisada (Utagawa Toyokuni III), Actor as Oguri Hangan at Fujisawa, 1852, Carnegie Museum of Art

The first is by Utagawa Kunisada (Utagawa Toyokuni III), one of the most popular and active printmakers of the Edo period (1603–1868), whose work focused on the popular subjects like kabuki theater, beautiful women, erotic images, and historical scenes. This print depicts a popular kabuki actor, Bandō Takesaburō I, in the role of Oguri Hangan.

A woman stands beside a table with calligraphy brushes. She covers part of her face with her sleeve. A painting of a mountain hangs at the upper-right corner of the scene.
Ikeda Eisen, Yoshiwara: Kurenai of Aka-Tsutaya, c. 1821-1823, Carnegie Museum of Art

The second print, by Ikeda Eisen, is a portrait of a beautiful woman—the subject that he was most celebrated for. Many of the women he portrayed worked in Yoshiwara, the red-light district of Edo (now Tokyo).

A woman stands in the foreground, tugging at the end of a scarf around her neck. A row of snow-covered homes appears behind her.
Sekino Jun-ichirô, Maid of Northern Japan, 1946, Carnegie Museum of Art

The last is by Jun-ichirō Sekino, one of the leading practitioners of shin-hanga (new prints), a Japanese print movement that began around 1915. His style was influenced by Japanese and European master printmakers including Tōshūsai Sharaku and Albrecht Dürer. His woodblock prints won acclaim in the United States following World War II.

These three works are examples of Japanese woodblock prints on paper. This technique was used to produce popular prints during the Edo period (1603–1868) and was revived during the twentieth-century “new prints” (shin hanga) movement. These prints are known for their rich palettes, which are made using water-based inks, and their flat compositions, which rely on line and strong shapes.

Let us know what you’d like to see next Friday! Pop over to our social media or send us an email at questions@cmoa.org and let us know what you’d like to see next!