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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 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 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 Goyu Station: A wayside teahouse and travelers
    Goyu Station: A wayside teahouse and travelers by Utagawa Hiroshige

    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. This was station thirty-five along the Tokaido. A whole new economy sprang up along the Tokaido when the Shogun made it a requirement for noblemen to make annual trips between the Shogun’s castle in Edo and the Emperor’s palace in Kyoto. Strategically placed inns, teahouses, and other shops offered places of rest and entertainment along the almost 300 mile long route.

  • Thumbnail for Woman in Twilight, front view
    Woman in Twilight, front view by unknown

    This print and five following are from a series of 21 night scenes published by Nishinomiya Y?saku of the Hasegawa publishing house between 1910 and 1920. They are fine examples of Shin-hanga “New Printmaking,†a movement reviving the studio/workshop methodology of earlier ukiyo-e. All the works are darkly inked, indicating night settings, and feature bokashi techniques to create atmospheric effects. Like most of the others, this print shows a traditional subject—a woman of the entertainment world walking to an assignment—with a subtle reference to Hiroshige in the firewatcher’s ladder and bell in the distance.

  • 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 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 Ainu, front view
    Ainu, front view by Kawanishi Hide

    This modernist portrait of a representative of Japan’s northern aborigine minority, dressed for a dance performance, is a fine example of figurative printmaking in the sosaku hanga mode.

  • Thumbnail for After Hiroshige, front view stage 14
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 14 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 19
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 19 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 5
    After Hiroshige, front view stage 5 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 Shinagawa from Fifty-three Famous Places (Gojûsan tsugi meishozue)
    Shinagawa from Fifty-three Famous Places (Gojûsan tsugi meishozue) by Utagawa (Andô) Hiroshige

    Woodblock print. 13¾" x 9". Paper was issued in the Tokugawa Period (1615-1868) in standard sizes, most prints being in the oban format of 15 x10. The smaller size of this print thus indicates cutting. Condition good with some slight damage and staining. Professor Mandancy’s original list identifies this work correctly as second print in 1855 set, though her letter listed it again mistakenly as part of the earlier set. Old time connoisseurs of ukiyo-e looked mostly at the lines, but today, there is more consideration of the printing of the colors. Studies of the prints of Harunobu by Jack Hillier (Suzuki Harunobu, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1970, pp. 28-31) suggest that this Ukiyo-e artist offered a first state (best rubbed and colored) to a select clientele and then made subsequent larger, offerings (less carefully rubbed and colored) for more casual buyers. Some regard only the first offering as Art, seeing the later ones as closer to reproduction for commercial purposes. Colors have faded in both Hakone and Shinagawa, as is apparent in the pink rather than red tone of the vertical title bar. However, Hakone shows much more careful rubbing than Shinagawa. An example is the blue bar in the sea above the roofline in the middle of the print of Shinagawa. Such a blue bar is common in Ukiyo-e and is called a “number one†(ichimonji) because the character for “1†is a single, horizontal stroke. An ichimonji is made by painting a broad band of color onto the pre-moistened block and then swiping across it to remove some color and so create a tonal variation. Streaks in the blue bar in Shinagawa indicate that this “wipe†was quick and simple. This is also true for the blue at the top of Shinagawa, or the colors of the distant mountains, wall, or other areas. By contrast, the grey color of the large mountain that dominates the left half of the composition of Hakone is much more carefully done. It fades out much more gradually. The grain of the wooden block has also been used to create cliffs and crags in the mountain. Similarly, the rubber used the rough texture of the wood itself to give the dotted look of gritty rock. This effect is particularly nicely done in the area by the shore, where it produces a sandy texture that contrasts to the wet-looking blue water.

  • Thumbnail for Evening at Kintaikyo Bridge, in Spring
    Evening at Kintaikyo Bridge, in Spring by Kawase Hasui

    Color woodblock, 15 1/4 X 10 1/2 inches, ink and color on paper. Shin Hanga print showing one of the 'Three Bridges of Japan'. Built in the late 17th century by Lord Hiroyoshi Kikkawa to solve the transportation problem when the Nishiki River flooded. Hasui presents the five arch bridge and its surroundings in a lyric manner, looking through pink cherry blossoms at a pebbled bank with a man maneuvering his boat beneath the bridge.

  • Thumbnail for 53 stations of the Tokaido: Yoshida - Station 35
    53 stations of the Tokaido: Yoshida - Station 35 by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

    Color woodblock, 7 X 9 1/4 inches, ink and color on paper. People passing over a bridge with heavy loads and one woman on a horse. Large section of water with boats in front of the city of Yoshida, high rising buildings in the distance.

  • Thumbnail for 53 Stations of the Tokaido: Seki, Station 48
    53 Stations of the Tokaido: Seki, Station 48 by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

    Color woodblock, 7 X 9 1/4 inches, ink and color on paper. Seki means 'checkpoint', and checkpoints were set up at strategic locations by the Tokugawa government to control traveling, police the road and prevent any unlawful activities. Hiroshige illustrates the arrival of a high ranking official accompanied by his entourage at Seki.

  • Thumbnail for 53 Stations of the Tokaido - Sakanoshita, Station 49
    53 Stations of the Tokaido - Sakanoshita, Station 49 by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

    Color woodblock, 7 X 9 1/4 inches, ink and color on paper. Large white mountain range with travelers looking out appreciating the view. Sakanoshita was a dangerous part of the highway due to bandits. Hiroshige nevertheless focuses on the scenery and the enjoyment of the pilgrim travelers.

  • Thumbnail for 53 Stations of the Tokaido: Minakuchi, Station 51
    53 Stations of the Tokaido: Minakuchi, Station 51 by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

    Color woodblock, 7 X 9 1/4 inches, ink and color on paper. Men and women attendants outside two-story establishment soliciting for trade, literally dragging men off the street in the evening.

  • Thumbnail for Ocean view with Mt. Fuji
    Ocean view with Mt. Fuji by Shirasuka Hiroshige

    9" x 14". Hills and trees in foreground. Modern copy.

  • 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 Samurai surimono - limited edition print
    Samurai surimono - limited edition print

    Original surimono by the celebrated master Utagawa Toyohiro, done c. 1795. Toyohiro was a noted ukiyo-e painter, printmaker and illustrator; had studied under Toyoharu, whose studio he entered in 1782. Surimono were limited edition prints, privately commissioned and published to announce or commemorate a special event. They are therefore quite rare, and, if their condition is good, much higher in value than prints for which there are hundreds of extant copies. They are often richly embossed and/or gilded, as here, where there is gilding on the sword scabbard, and plum blossoms embossed and faintly visible. This example has an unusual horizontal format for a print. Because it was a surimono? There do not appear to be any creases; was it rolled, originally? Subject is a bald samurai with shaved pate and muttonchop whiskers. Wears blue hakama decorated with 20 cranes. Huge sword, with some gilding on the sword scabbard. L. hand holds an oversized square box (for sake?). R. hand is an upraised fist. Presence of cranes (symbols of long life) and plum blossoms (blooming at the time of the lunar New Year, and also symbols of bravery) make this an auspicious image, perhaps associated with the New Year holiday.

  • Thumbnail for Mura - 'Village' - plants 2
    Mura - 'Village' - plants 2 by Inagaki Nenjiro (1902-1963)

    Portfolio of 20 woodblock prints; ink and light colors on paper. Born Kyoto. Alt. name: Inagaki Nenjiro. Graduated in 1922 Kyoto City School of Fine Arts and Crafts. Became a designer of stencil patterns for fine kimonos. Exhibited in craft divisions of Bunten and Kokugakai from 1941. Held several positions at Kyoto City College of Fine Arts. His work as a stencil-dyed fabric designer was designated an Intangible Cultural Property in 1962. In the 1950s he designed multicolor hanga which have the stylized quality of his textile designs but were printed from single woodblocks at Mikumo Mokuhansha in Kyoto. This company had been founded by Ishihara Tadao in January 1942. It still exists today. The prints in the OWU collection are characteristic of Inagaki's works of the 1950s that resemble his textile designs.

  • Thumbnail for Stone and Sand
    Stone and Sand by Hagiwara Hideo (born 1913)

    Edition: 9/30. Woodblock print; ink, colors, and silver on paper. Hideo Hagiwara was born in Kofu City, Yamanishi Prefecture. Between 1921 and 1929 he lived in Korea and Manchuria. He studied at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, where he graduated at the Oil Painting Section in 1938. While still there he attended Un'ichi Hiratsuka's extracurricular woodblock printing course, and in the same year he became quality controller at the Takamizawa Woodblock Print Company. He was conscripted into the army in 1943. In 1945 he had lost his house, his atelier and nearly all his early works. Around 1950 he had sufficiently recovered to start painting again. At the same time he started making Sosaku hanga (creative prints), both figurative and abstract subjects. He is known as a constant innovator and he is generally considered one of the best post-WWII Sosaku hanga artists.

  • Thumbnail for Kaki (Persimmons)
    Kaki (Persimmons) by Tomoe Yokoi (born 1943)

    Mezzotint; ink and colors on paper, framed under glass. Tomoe Yokoi was born in Nagoya Japan in 1943. She began art studies at Bunk Tokyo College of Art, were the curriculum was traditional techniques. Subject matter stressed was realistic everyday images such as fruits, musical instruments, and flowers. In 1964, following graduation, Yokoi moved to Paris, and studied intaglio printmaking with S. W. Hayter as this famous workshop, Atelier. In Paris Yokoi perfected her technique of mezzotint, expanding its parameters to include more complex images and subtle color nuances. In 1971 Yokoi moved to New York City where she worked and introduced her art to New York audiences. She developed a unique style which combines and is a synthesis of her Japanese, Parisian, and New York experiences.

  • Thumbnail for Book of prints - example image of portrait of an old man
    Book of prints - example image of portrait of an old man

    Woodblock print mounted on flecked paper. Image shows an elderly bearded gentleman gazing out over the water towards Mt. Fuji.

  • Thumbnail for Maiden and Ox
    Maiden and Ox by Mayumi Oda (b. 1941)

    Print 19 of 33, woodcut on paper, 18 x 12 inches. Mayumi Oda is a Tokyo-born Japanese-American woman print-maker, who is a graduate of Tokyo University of Fine Arts and the Pratt Graphic Center, NY and who now lives on a farm in Kealakekua, Hawaii. Oda is as well known as an activist for environmental and women's causes as an artist. She is one of the founders of Plutonium Free Future, which seeks safe energy, and she works with the World Court Project that hopes to make nuclear weapons illegal. She is the author of "I Opened the Gate, Laughing: An Inner Journey and has written on her love of farming in "Sun, Seeds and Soil" in Resurgence 229, 2005. She has also translated the writings of Hiratsuka Raicho (1887-1971), a Japanese feminist important in the development of the Creative Print Movement. Oda titled this print Maiden and Ox, but the image is clearly based on the theme of the Ten (or Six) Zen Oxen or Bulls, there being no distinction in Japanese between the male and female animal or between oxen and cattle. The theme of the Ten Zen Bulls was often illustrated as a series of circular pictures. The theme compares the process of reaching enlightenment in Zen Buddhism to taming a bull. Pictures of the Ten Zen Bulls generally begin by showing a bull-herd wandering aimlessly until he spies out the animal. He chases it, ropes it, and struggles with it until the animal meekly follows him. The bull-herd can now ride the bull with such confidence that he is able to play his flute while doing so. Next, the bull-herd is shown praying. A blank circle follows, then a scene in nature, and finally, an image of the bull-herd standing next to some great Buddhist figure, such as Hotei. The meaning of the parable of the Ten Zen Bulls may come from the fact that oxen and cattle, as the largest animals known in Japan, are symbols of flesh. Interpreted this way, the point of the parable would be that the flesh (bull) must first be perceived and then tamed, in order to enter a religious path. Not until the flesh (bull) follows the mind (bull-herd), and indeed, not until flesh and mind are completely comfortable with each other (the bull-herd riding the bull and playing his flute) is it possible to reach enlightenment, or the understanding of nothingness (the blank scene). Finally, the good Buddhist, having achieved salvation, returns to the world (the scene in nature) to help others as the great saints did. Oda transformed the usually male ox-herd of the Ten Zen Bulls into one of her goddesses, but otherwise reproduces the figure's relaxed pose, seated on the bull and playing his flute. The goddess is drawn in outline, with her white skin the color of the unprinted paper. Black lines render the goddess' arms, neck, eyes, and other anatomical details. The bull, by contrast, is composed of large black masses that have been shaped carefully to leave long open strips of unprinted white paper. The white strips serve as the contours of the horns, folds in the neck, and upper parts of the right fore and back legs. Oda's Maiden and Ox, consequently, is not just an image commenting upon gender issues in Buddhism or the need for the spiritually enlightened to work in the world -- Oda has said that she began making her goddess series in response to the Vietnam War. Maiden and Ox is also a statement on the nature of line in art and its relationship to the planes that it creates.