Japanese Woodblock Prints – A Reintroduction

Japanese woodblock prints from the 17th to 20th centuries have been collected, digitized, and made available to the public through the Library of Congress.

Frequently depicted in the block prints are actors, women, landscapes, daily life, Japanese literature scenes, and views of Western foreigners; themes present from moments of leisure and entertainment in Japan. According to the Library of Congress, “Many schools, traditions, and genres are represented, notably surimono, privately distributed prints combining pictures and poetry, and prints from the Russo-Japanese and Sino-Japanese wars. However, the primary strengths of the collection are the Japanese art forms known as Ukiyo-e and Yokohama-e.”

The dominant schools present are Ukiyo-e, translated as “pictures of the floating (or sorrowful) world”,

and Yokohama-e, which translates literally to “pictures of Yokohama”.

Prior to the 1850s, Japan had a policy of national seclusion, meaning, among other things, that Japanese prints were not seen by anyone outside of Japan. Now, due to the donations of various people and institutes, anyone anywhere in the world has the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of this art form.

View the whole collection here.

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