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  • Thumbnail for Tales of Ise, Sagabon edition
    Tales of Ise, Sagabon edition

    Published by Suminokura Soan. "Sagabon versions of Ise Monogatari (Tales of Ise), which were published in ten separate editions, allowed this tenth-century collection of poem tales to assume its place as one of the best-known Japanese classics. The book consists of 125 brief chapters, each usually centering on a poem or two, recounting courtier and various companions. At first glance it may be hard to tell that these volumes were printed with movable wooden type. The connected characters appear to be written with a brush, but close examination reveals that no more than two or three kana characters are connected. The anonymous woodblock-printed illustrations of these Ise editions are derived from hand-drawn manuscripts with limited circulation." - abridged from description by John T Carpenter.

  • Thumbnail for Chairman Mao
    Chairman Mao

    Lifesize print of Chairman Mao Zedong. Red inscription along the bottom says "We wish Chairman Mao long life". Righthand side says "Respectfully donated by a Red Guard organization".

  • Thumbnail for Embarrassed woman with an outstanding debt
    Embarrassed woman with an outstanding debt by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

    From the Myodensu Juroku Rikan (Sixteen Wonderful Considerations of Profit) series. The son of a silk dyer, Utagawa Kuniyoshi was apprenticed to the printmaker Utagawa Toyokuni I. whose other pupils included Toyoshige and Kunisada. Unlike his master, who specialized in actor portraits, Kuniyoshi excelled in depicting historical scenes and events along with celebrated warriors. Like many of his contemporaries, the artist experimented widely, producing prints of everything from landscapes to erotica. Kuniyoshi’s first published work was a set of book illustrations released in 1814, although his name remained obscure for several years until his publication of a print series depicting 75 heroes from Japanese lore and legend. When prints of actors and beautiful women (bijin-ga) were banned by the Japanese government in 1842, the Japanese middle class became enthusiastic supporters of Kuniyoshi’s seemingly inoffensive historical prints. In 1843, the artist released a satirical triptych print criticizing the Shogun, launching an official investigation that resulted in the destruction of Kuniyoshi’s woodblocks and unsold prints, as well as an official censure. The print, however, remained popular with the middle class. Bijin-ga (images of beauties) might be of actual contemporary and historic women or of an idealized type of beauty specific to a time and region. Courtesans in particular were usually depicted in the latest and most elaborate fashions of the day. After an increasing number of censorship laws were passed to limit the production of prints of famous courtesans, thought to corrupt the morals of the citizens of Japan, many artists turned to domestic images of mothers and daughters or women with servants and generalized pictures of the latest fashions in order to satisfy the demand for bijin-ga and skirt the laws.

  • Thumbnail for Daybreak at Nihonbashi Bridge
    Daybreak at Nihonbashi Bridge by Utagawa Hiroshige

    From the Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido series in the Tsutakichi Tokaido edition. One of the most well known 19th century ukiyo-e artists, famous for his landscape views, particularly his images of the Tokaido. As the busiest highway in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Tokaido offered numerous chances to experience a variety of social classes and day-to-day activities. Numerous images of this highway were created during the Edo period, some in singular views and others in series, the most famous of which are Hiroshige’s numerous editions. The images depicted the commercial activity along the road and famous views seen on the journey. Hiroshige, in particular, also chose many of the views based on varying times of year and the weather conditions that offered an ever-changing impression of the landscape. Greatly influenced by his teacher Utagawa Toyoharu, Hiroshige often employed perspective views rather than the more traditional stacked and flattened views of the landscape found in the Kano school of painting. This slightly more western view helps to explain his popularity among 19th century artists in Europe. Though Hiroshige’s most famous series was called “Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido,†most editions actually included fifty-five images as the artist executed both the beginning point of the traditional journey, Nihonbashi bridge in Edo, and the terminus of the highway in Kyoto. Here the famous bridge in the center of Edo is bathed in early morning light, representing both a spiritual and a literal beginning of a long journey.

  • Thumbnail for Anti-American imperialism poster - 2 of 3
    Anti-American imperialism poster - 2 of 3

    Series of images showing US involvement in Asia during the first half of the 20th century. Of interest in this series is the emphasis on the US backing of the Guomindang.

  • Thumbnail for Ferry boats on the Tenryu River at Mitsuke Station
    Ferry boats on the Tenryu River at Mitsuke Station by Utagawa Hiroshige

    From the Tsutakichi series. One of the most well-known 19th century ukiyo-e artists, famous for his landscape views, particularly his images of the Tokaido. This image was originally a part of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s collection of Japanese woodblock prints. It along with 36 others came to the Wriston from a benefactor who received them from Wright in lieu of a payment for printing services. Many of the prints have Wright’s handwritten notations in the margins. Though many of the Wright works in our collection are of lesser quality, the images serve as an example of the interest in Asian art that so informed Wright’s architecture. As the busiest highway in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Tokaido offered numerous chances to experience a variety of social classes and day-to-day activities. Numerous images of this highway were created during the Edo period, some in singular views and others in series, the most famous of which are Hiroshige’s numerous editions. The images depicted the commercial activity along the road and famous views seen on the journey. Hiroshige, in particular, also chose many of the views based on varying times of year and the weather conditions that offered an ever-changing impression of the landscape. Greatly influenced by his teacher Utagawa Toyoharu, Hiroshige often employed perspective views rather than the more traditional stacked and flattened views of the landscape found in the Kano school of painting. This slightly more western view helps to explain his popularity among 19th century artists in Europe.This image represents station number twenty-nine. Though often fordable by foot, during heavy rains the Tenryu river was deep and swift and many boatmen plied their trade ferrying travelers across the river.

  • Thumbnail for The Courtesan Shigeoka of Okamotoya Brothel
    The Courtesan Shigeoka of Okamotoya Brothel by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

    From the Sugato no Hana Bijin Kurabe (Comparison of Beauties with Flowers) Series. The son of a silk dyer, Utagawa Kuniyoshi was apprenticed to the printmaker Utagawa Toyokuni I. whose other pupils included Toyoshige and Kunisada. Unlike his master, who specialized in actor portraits, Kuniyoshi excelled in depicting historical scenes and events along with celebrated warriors. Like many of his contemporaries, the artist experimented widely, producing prints of everything from landscapes to erotica. Kuniyoshi’s first published work was a set of book illustrations released in 1814, although his name remained obscure for several years until his publication of a print series depicting 75 heroes from Japanese lore and legend. When prints of actors and beautiful women (bijin-ga) were banned by the Japanese government in 1842, the Japanese middle class became enthusiastic supporters of Kuniyoshi’s seemingly inoffensive historical prints. In 1843, the artist released a satirical triptych print criticizing the Shogun, launching an official investigation that resulted in the destruction of Kuniyoshi’s woodblocks and unsold prints, as well as an official censure. The print, however, remained popular with the middle class. Bijin-ga (images of beauties) might be of actual contemporary and historic women or of an idealized type of beauty specific to a time and region. Courtesans in particular were usually depicted in the latest and most elaborate fashions of the day. After restrictive censorship laws were passed in the 1840s, many artists turned to generalized pictures of the latest fashions and more domestic settings for their images of beauties.

  • Thumbnail for The General Amakasu Omi-no-kami Kagotoki riding a brown horse
    The General Amakasu Omi-no-kami Kagotoki riding a brown horse by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

    The son of a silk dyer, Utagawa Kuniyoshi was apprenticed to the printmaker Utagawa Toyokuni I. whose other pupils included Toyoshige and Kunisada. Unlike his master, who specialized in actor portraits, Kuniyoshi excelled in depicting historical scenes and events along with celebrated warriors. Like many of his contemporaries, the artist experimented widely, producing prints of everything from landscapes to erotica. Kuniyoshi’s first published work was a set of book illustrations released in 1814, although his name remained obscure for several years until his publication of a print series depicting 75 heroes from Japanese lore and legend. When prints of actors and beautiful women (bijin-ga) were banned by the Japanese government in 1842, the Japanese middle class became enthusiastic supporters of Kuniyoshi’s seemingly inoffensive historical prints. In 1843, the artist released a satirical triptych print criticizing the Shogun, launching an official investigation that resulted in the destruction of Kuniyoshi’s woodblocks and unsold prints, as well as an official censure. The print, however, remained popular with the middle class.

  • Thumbnail for The Minister of the Right, Minamoto Yoritomo Setting thousands of Cranes Free in Front of Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, Kamakura to Receive the Blessing of a Pious and Virtuous Life
    The Minister of the Right, Minamoto Yoritomo Setting thousands of Cranes Free in Front of Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, Kamakura to Receive the Blessing of a Pious and Virtuous Life by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

    The son of a silk dyer, Utagawa Kuniyoshi was apprenticed to the printmaker Utagawa Toyokuni I. whose other pupils included Toyoshige and Kunisada. Unlike his master, who specialized in actor portraits, Kuniyoshi excelled in depicting historical scenes and events along with celebrated warriors. Like many of his contemporaries, the artist experimented widely, producing prints of everything from landscapes to erotica. Kuniyoshi’s first published work was a set of book illustrations released in 1814, although his name remained obscure for several years until his publication of a print series depicting 75 heroes from Japanese lore and legend. When prints of actors and beautiful women (bijin-ga) were banned by the Japanese government in 1842, the Japanese middle class became enthusiastic supporters of Kuniyoshi’s seemingly inoffensive historical prints. In 1843, the artist released a satirical triptych print criticizing the Shogun, launching an official investigation that resulted in the destruction of Kuniyoshi’s woodblocks and unsold prints, as well as an official censure. The print, however, remained popular with the middle class. This prints was most likely commissioned by the official named in its title or done to court the favor of said official. The long title and large size of the print were meant to denote the official’s importance.

  • Thumbnail for Morning mist at Mishima Station
    Morning mist at Mishima Station by Utagawa Hiroshige

    From the Fifty-three Stations of the first Tokaido series in the Hoeido Tokaido edition and one of the most well-known 19th century ukiyo-e artists, famous for his landscape views, particularly his images of the Tokaido. This image was originally a part of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s collection of Japanese woodblock prints. It along with 36 others came to the Wriston from a benefactor who received them from Wright in lieu of a payment for printing services. Many of the prints have Wright’s handwritten notations in the margins. Though many of the Wright works in our collection are of lesser quality, the images serve as an example of the interest in Asian art that so informed Wright’s architecture. As the busiest highway in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Tokaido offered numerous chances to experience a variety of social classes and day-to-day activities. Numerous images of this highway were created during the Edo period, some in singular views and others in series, the most famous of which are Hiroshige’s numerous editions. The images depicted the commercial activity along the road and famous views seen on the journey. Hiroshige, in particular, also chose many of the views based on varying times of year and the weather conditions that offered an ever-changing impression of the landscape. Greatly influenced by his teacher Utagawa Toyoharu, Hiroshige often employed perspective views rather than the more traditional stacked and flattened views of the landscape found in the Kano school of painting. This slightly more western view helps to explain his popularity among 19th century artists in Europe. One of Hiroshige’s most famous images “Morning Mist at Mishima Station†shows the artist’s interest in the ever-changing effects of light, dark and atmosphere. This was station number eleven.

  • Thumbnail for Shinmachi Bridge at Hodogaya Station 1833
    Shinmachi Bridge at Hodogaya Station 1833 by Utagawa Hiroshige

    From the Fifty-three Stations of the first Tokaido series from the Hoeido Tokaido edition. One of the most well-known 19th century ukiyo-e artists, famous for his landscape views, particularly his images of the Tokaido. This image was originally a part of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s collection of Japanese woodblock prints. It along with 36 others came to the Wriston from a benefactor who received them from Wright in lieu of a payment for printing services. Many of the prints have Wright’s handwritten notations in the margins. Though many of the Wright works in our collection are of lesser quality, the images serve as an example of the interest in Asian art that so informed Wright’s architecture. As the busiest highway in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Tokaido offered numerous chances to experience a variety of social classes and day-to-day activities. Numerous images of this highway were created during the Edo period, some in singular views and others in series, the most famous of which are Hiroshige’s numerous editions. The images depicted the commercial activity along the road and famous views seen on the journey. Hiroshige, in particular, also chose many of the views based on varying times of year and the weather conditions that offered an ever-changing impression of the landscape. Greatly influenced by his teacher Utagawa Toyoharu, Hiroshige often employed perspective views rather than the more traditional stacked and flattened views of the landscape found in the Kano school of painting. This slightly more western view helps to explain his popularity among 19th century artists in Europe. This was station number four.

  • Thumbnail for Senju Bridge by Night, front view
    Senju Bridge by Night, front view by Shoda Koho

    Yet another print from the Hasegawa series of night scenes, this one foregrounds lantern-carrying pedestrians and a portable shop crossing the silhouetted bridge, with glimmers of light on a distant shore beyond passing boats.

  • Thumbnail for Lake Biwa
    Lake Biwa by Shoda Koho

    One of two prints from the Hasegawa series, and in fact represent one of the aspects unique to the woodblock print process. Using exactly the same blocks, but inking them with different sets of colors, the printers were able to produce visions of the same scene at different times of day. Both prints feature a boat setting off with passenger and boatman (or woman, given the hair length) in the foreground, the Ukimido at Katata, on Lake Biwa, in the background, and a pine branch silhouetted above. This one shows a dawn of browns and grays, no stars, and no touches of red—the lanterns have gone out as the sun prepares to rise.

  • Thumbnail for Moonlit Bridge on the Sumida River, front view
    Moonlit Bridge on the Sumida River, front view by Kobayashi Eijir?

    From the Hasegawa series. Inked in dark blue and black, this view of the bridge from below evokes Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, and Whistler.

  • Thumbnail for After Hiroshige, front view stage 15
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 15 by unknown

    One of nineteen prints which illustrate the process of making a multi-block multicolor One of nineteen prints which illustrate the process of making a multi-block multicolor woodblock print.The print reproduced is the view of Asakusa Kinryuzan (Asakusa Kannon Temple) from Ando Hiroshige’s Toto yukimi hakkei (Eight Views of Snow in the Eastern Capital).

  • Thumbnail for After Hiroshige, front view stage 12
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 12 by unknown

    One of nineteen prints which illustrate the process of making a multi-block multicolor woodblock print.The print reproduced is the view of Asakusa Kinryuzan (Asakusa Kannon Temple) from Ando Hiroshige’s Toto yukimi hakkei (Eight Views of Snow in the Eastern Capital).

  • Thumbnail for After Hiroshige, front view stage 10
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 10 by unknown

    One of nineteen prints which illustrate the process of making a multi-block multicolor woodblock print. The print reproduced is the view of Asakusa Kinryuzan (Asakusa Kannon Temple) from Ando Hiroshige’s Toto yukimi hakkei (Eight Views of Snow in the Eastern Capital).

  • Thumbnail for Vielle Ainu, Chikabumi, Hokkaido, Japan
    Vielle Ainu, Chikabumi, Hokkaido, Japan by Paul Jacoulet (1896-1960)

    Color woodblock print, 15-1/2 x 11-3/4". One of a pair of prints of Old Ainu Woman and Old Ainu Man. Both have owl-shaped seals. Both appear to be printed on mica-flecked paper, which adds a subtle richness to the print. Both depict their subjects from the waist up.

  • Thumbnail for 53 Stations of the Tokaido: Sanjo-ohashi, Station 55
    53 Stations of the Tokaido: Sanjo-ohashi, Station 55 by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

    Color woodblock, 7 X 9 1/4 inches, ink and color on paper. Central bridge,busy with travelers and pilgrims, diminishing at vanishing point with grey mountains in the distance. Sanjo-ohashi Bridge in Kyoto was located on the Kamo River and one of the major landmarks in Kyoto. Hiroshige skillfully uses one point perspective to lead the eye of the viewer gradually to the other endof the bridge, past the rooftops of Kyoto to Higashiyama Mountain range in the far distance.

  • Thumbnail for The Warrior Usui Matagoro Slaying the Giant White Monkey (Usui Matagor? Hida sanchu utsu dai saru)
    The Warrior Usui Matagoro Slaying the Giant White Monkey (Usui Matagor? Hida sanchu utsu dai saru) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)

    Woodblock print; ink, colors, and embossing on paper. From a group of prints featuring Japanese warriors. Publisher: Nishimuraya Yohachi. The image portrays an obscure, probably fictitious samurai-hero Usui Matagoro slaying a giant white monkey in the Hida mountain, apparently by order of his overlord, the warrior Minamoto (Kiso) Yoshinaka (1154-1184). This reference comes from a contemporary brochure about an annual festival in the town in Aichi (Kariya) that has a float of Matagoro slaying the monkey in it. The brochure identified Matagoro as one the four generals (shitenno) of Minamoto Yoshinaka, hero of the Heike monogatari. Curiously, standard, earlier and reliable sources list four others as Yoshinaka's generals. So it is unclear when the legend of Matagoro arose, though his presence in this print dates it to at least the early 19th century. Yoshinaka himself was a tragic hero immortalized in the Tales of the Heike, that described the figures on both sides of the battles that marked the most important turning point in Japanese history, the founding of the first shogunate (military dictatorship). Yoshinaka was killed in battle by his cousin Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1180), his rival for military control of Kyoto and the emperor. His defeat allowed Yoritomo to become Japan's first shogun in 1185. The twelfth-century struggles between the Taira and Minamoto clans mark a violent end to the long and largely peaceful Heian period (794-1185). The Minamoto or "Genji", were severely weakened in two "disturbances" known as the Hogen and Heiji era insurrections in the 1150s, power struggles at court. The Minamoto leaders were executed, but the lives of two young brothers, Yoritomo and Yoshitsune, were spared. For twenty years the Taira dominated the imperial court under the leadership of Kiyomori, encroaching on the traditional power the Fujiwara nobles wielded over the emperors. Different factions plotted against the Taira with little success until Yoritomo rose in revolt in 1180. Yoritomo, however, allowed the bulk of the fighting to be carried out by his relatives: Yoshinaka, Noriyori, and Yoshitune. The Taira were finally defeated at the naval battle at Dan-no-ura in 1185.

  • Thumbnail for Page from the book Toshisen ehon gogon zekku - Illustrated selection of poems of the Tang dynasty, poems of four verses, each verse of five words
    Page from the book Toshisen ehon gogon zekku - Illustrated selection of poems of the Tang dynasty, poems of four verses, each verse of five words by Illustrated by Tachibana Sekiho (active late 18th century)

    Double page woodblock printed book illustration; ink on paper. (The museum owns two additional pages from this book). Because the page has been separated from its book, there is no way to know which edition it came from. This is a good example that demonstrates the widespread and popular interest in ancient Chinese literature among sophisticated, well educated commoners (the readers of books such as these) in the Edo period. There exist several printed books with close variations on this title, including one illustrated by Hokusai. But this is clearly not the Hokusai volume.

  • Thumbnail for Page from an Unidentified Woodblock Book
    Page from an Unidentified Woodblock Book by Illustration in the style of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

    Double page woodblock printed book illustration; ink and color on paper. Depicts a courtier and attendant kneeling before a priest, who is unrolling a handscroll. Although aesthetically pleasing, the condition of this print is somewhat problematic (paper soiled). It is a good example of the type of illustrated books that were so popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries in Japan.

  • Thumbnail for Juggling
    Juggling by Miyagawa Shuntei (1873-1914)

    Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. From the series: Twenty-four Children's Games (Konodo Fuzoku)

  • Thumbnail for Pagoda
    Pagoda by Saito Kiyoshi (1907-1999)

    Woodblock print framed behind glass; ink and colors on paper. Saitô studied Western-style painting at the Hongô Painting Institute and exhibited his oil paintings with various art groups and societies. After having a print accepted by the Kokugakai ("National Picture Association"), Saitô began to seriously pursue printmaking. In 1938 he issued his first prints in his now famous "Winter in Aizu" series. After steadily gaining recognition, he won first prize in 1951 at the Sao Paulo, Brazil international biennial exhibition for his print called "Steady Gaze," where it won over both prints and paintings. Saitô admired Piet Mondrian, and some of his views of buildings and temples seem to display that influence in their simplified forms. Saitô's prints have been especially popular in the west, although his works are appreciated in Japan as well. He worked primarily in the woodblock medium, while also producing works in collagraph, drypoint, and color and ink paintings (suiboku ga). He carved his images into blocks of various woods, either solid katsura or plywood faced with katsura, rawan, yanagi, keyaki, shina, or lauan, to obtain a wide range of textures. In some cases he used only one block for all the colors in a design, while for others he needed as many as 5 or 6 different blocks. He often used kizuki-hôsho ("genuinely-made hôsho," that is, the fine-quality paper made from kôzo, "Paper mulberry").

  • Thumbnail for Rite of the Great Compassion Repentance, with Notation
    Rite of the Great Compassion Repentance, with Notation

    Woodblock print, accordion-folded book; ink on paper. The ritual text of the Dabei chanyi hejie is itself is a pared down version of longer eleventh century manual for the great compassion repentance (titled, Qianshouyan dabei xinzhou xingfa, or "Rite [for Recitation] of the Dharani of Great Compassion of Thousand Armed and Eyed [Guanyin]," which can be found in Taisho daizokyo, vol. 46, T no. 1950). The original 11th century manual was authored by Siming Zhili (960-1038), one of the most influential Tiantai masters of the Northern Song period. The rite of the "great compassion repentance" has been enormously popular among Chinese Buddhists throughout the later imperial period (and not just Tiantai circles), with Zhili's manual serving as the principal guide to its performance. (Actually, this is also the origin of the Soto-shu's Kannon senbo, which comes out of Song China and is based on Zhili's text). Precisely when the shortened version of the rite -- i.e., the abridged rite reflected in the Dabei chanyi hejie -- actually took shape is not entirely clear, but it appears to have been used widely in the late Ming and Qing Dynasties, if not earlier. A number of printings of the Dabei chanyi hejie were apparently done in the 19th century (above information courtesy of Prof. Daniel Stevenson, University of Kansas, a specialist in Chinese Buddhism).