A Beautiful New Book of Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Visual History of 200 Japanese Masterpieces Created Between 1680 and 1938

Japan­ese wood­block prints, espe­cial­ly in the style known in Japan­ese as ukiyo‑e, or “pic­tures of the float­ing world,” por­tray the social, nat­ur­al, and super­nat­ur­al realms in a way no oth­er art form ever has. They also repay the atten­tion you give them, one rea­son we here on Open Cul­ture have tried to share with you every oppor­tu­ni­ty to down­load them — from the archive at Ukiyo‑e.org, for exam­ple, or at the Library of Con­gress — and build your own dig­i­tal col­lec­tion.

But appre­ci­at­ing Japan­ese wood­block prints on a screen is one thing, and appre­ci­at­ing them in large-scale repro­duc­tions on paper is quite anoth­er. At least that’s one implic­it premise of the book Japan­ese Wood­block Prints (1680–1938), new­ly pub­lished by Taschen.

As a pub­lish­er, Taschen has made its for­mi­da­ble name in part by col­lect­ing between two cov­ers the less­er-known work of famous artists of the recent past: Andy Warhol’s hand-illus­trat­ed books, for exam­ple, or Sal­vador Dalí’s cook­book and tarot deck.

Nev­er an out­fit to fear accu­sa­tions of immod­esty, Taschen’s projects also include “XXL books” like a 500-page, 14-pound vol­ume on Jean-Michel Basquiat. Sur­pass­ing even that book in length by more than 200 pages, Japan­ese Wood­block Prints con­tains, accord­ing to Taschen’s offi­cial site, an artis­tic real­i­ty where “breath­tak­ing land­scapes exist along­side blush-induc­ing erot­i­ca; where demons and oth­er­world­ly crea­tures tor­ment the liv­ing; and where sumo wrestlers, kabu­ki actors, and cour­te­sans are rock stars.”

“For this tome, Taschen spent three years repro­duc­ing wood­block prints from muse­ums and pri­vate col­lec­tions from around the world,” writes Colos­sal’s Andrew Lasane. “Writ­ten by Andreas Marks, head of the Japan­ese and Kore­an Art Depart­ment at the Min­neapo­lis Insti­tute of Art, the book is divid­ed chrono­log­i­cal­ly into sev­en chap­ters begin­ning with the 17th cen­tu­ry ear­ly mas­ters and con­clud­ing with the Shin-hanga move­ment.” (That last is a late 19th- and ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry wood­block style, in which we once fea­tured ren­der­ings of Hayao Miyaza­k­i’s char­ac­ters.)

No mat­ter our tem­po­ral and cul­tur­al dis­tance from the Japan­ese mas­ters of ukiyo‑e, we’ve near­ly all been cap­ti­vat­ed by their work at one time or anoth­er, most often when we run across pieces of it online. With Japan­ese Wood­block Prints, Taschen means to get those of us who pre­fer print even more cap­ti­vat­ed — and at the same time, to teach us more than a lit­tle about the cul­tur­al and his­tor­i­cal con­text of all these land­scapes, cityscapes, mon­sters, beau­ties, and his­tor­i­cal fig­ures at which we mar­vel.

If you want to pick up a copy of this artis­tic work, you can make a pur­chas on Ama­zon.

via Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Enter a Dig­i­tal Archive of 213,000+ Beau­ti­ful Japan­ese Wood­block Prints

Down­load 2,500 Beau­ti­ful Wood­block Prints and Draw­ings by Japan­ese Mas­ters (1600–1915)

Down­load Hun­dreds of 19th-Cen­tu­ry Japan­ese Wood­block Prints by Mas­ters of the Tra­di­tion

Behold the Mas­ter­piece by Japan’s Last Great Wood­block Artist: View Online Tsukio­ka Yoshitoshi’s One Hun­dred Aspects of the Moon (1885)

Japan­ese Kabu­ki Actors Cap­tured in 18th-Cen­tu­ry Wood­block Prints by the Mys­te­ri­ous & Mas­ter­ful Artist Sharaku

19th Cen­tu­ry Japan­ese Wood­block Prints Cre­ative­ly Illus­trate the Inner Work­ings of the Human Body

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.