Download 215,000 Japanese Woodblock Prints by Masters Spanning the Tradition’s 350-Year History

If you enjoy Japan­ese wood­block prints, that appre­ci­a­tion puts you in good com­pa­ny: with Vin­cent van Gogh, for exam­ple, and per­haps even more flat­ter­ing­ly, with many of your fel­low read­ers of Open Cul­ture. So avid is the inter­est in ukiyo‑e, the tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese “pic­tures of the float­ing world,” that you might even have missed one of the large, free online col­lec­tions we’ve fea­tured over the years. Take, for instance, the one made avail­able by the Van Gogh Muse­um itself, which fea­tures the work of such well-known mas­ters as Kat­sushi­ka Hoku­sai, artist of The Great Wave off Kanaza­wa, and Uta­gawa Hiroshige, he of the One Hun­dred Views of Edo.

Edo was the name of Tokyo until 1868, a decade after Hiroshige’s death — an event that itself marked the end of an aes­thet­i­cal­ly fruit­ful era for ukiyo‑e. But the his­to­ry of the form itself stretch­es back to the 17th cen­tu­ry, as reflect­ed by the Unit­ed States Library of Con­gress’ online col­lec­tion “Fine Prints: Japan­ese, pre-1915.”

There you’ll find plen­ty of Hoku­sai and Hiroshige, but also oth­ers who took the art form in their own direc­tions like Uta­gawa Yoshi­fu­ji, whose prints include depic­tions of not just his coun­try­men but vis­it­ing West­ern­ers as well. (The results are some­what more real­is­tic than the ukiyo‑e Lon­don imag­ined in 1866 by Uta­gawa Yoshi­to­ra, anoth­er mem­ber of the same artis­tic lin­eage.)

As if all this was­n’t enough, you can also find more than 220,000 Japan­ese wood­block prints at Ukiyo‑ Quite pos­si­bly the most expan­sive such archive yet cre­at­ed, it includes works from Hiroshige and Hoku­sai’s 19th-cen­tu­ry “gold­en age of print­mak­ing” as well as from the devel­op­ment of the art form ear­ly in the cen­tu­ry before. Even after its best-known prac­ti­tion­ers were gone, ukiyo‑e con­tin­ued to evolve: through Japan’s mod­ern­iz­ing Mei­ji peri­od in the late 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, through var­i­ous aes­thet­ic move­ments in the years up to the Sec­ond World War, and even on to our own time, which has seen the emer­gence even of pro­lif­ic non-Japan­ese print­mak­ers.

Of course, these ukiyo‑e prints weren’t orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed to be viewed on the inter­net; the works of Hoku­sai and Hiroshige may look good on a tablet, but not by their design. Still, they did often have the indi­vid­ual con­sumer in mind: these are artists “known today for their wood­block prints, but who also excelled at illus­tra­tions for deluxe poet­ry antholo­gies and pop­u­lar lit­er­a­ture,” writes the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art cura­tor John Car­pen­ter. His words greet the vis­i­tor to the Met’s online col­lec­tion of more than 650 illus­trat­ed Japan­ese books, which presents ukiyo‑e as it would actu­al­ly have been seen by most peo­ple when the form first explod­ed in pop­u­lar­i­ty — not that, even then, its enthu­si­asts could imag­ine how many appre­ci­a­tors it would one day have around the world.

Below you can find a list of pri­or posts fea­tur­ing archives of Japan­ese wood­block prints. Please feel free to explore them at your leisure.

Relat­ed con­tent:

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

Down­load Vin­cent van Gogh’s Col­lec­tion of 500 Japan­ese Prints, Which Inspired Him to Cre­ate “the Art of the Future”

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

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

The Met Puts 650+ Japan­ese Illus­trat­ed Books Online: Mar­vel at Hokusai’s One Hun­dred Views of Mount Fuji and More

Watch the Mak­ing of Japan­ese Wood­block Prints, from Start to Fin­ish, by a Long­time Tokyo Print­mak­er

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities 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 (1) |

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.