Japanese prints

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*Woodcut prints produced in Japan from the 17th century. They were made by transferring the artist's original design on to a wood block, inking it, and printing it on to paper, with a different block being used for each colour, so building up the picture. The prints were created entirely by hand by a team of craftsmen, overseen and employed by a publisher. Artists such as Shunsho (1726–92) and Utamaro (1754–1806) were centred in Edo (modern Tokyo), and depicted images of beautiful women, courtesans, actors, and scenes from the Kabuki theatre, all known as *‘Ukiyo-e’, or ‘Pictures of the Floating World’. During the 19th century artists including Hokusai (1760–1849) and Hiroshige (1797–1858) depicted landscapes and country life. After Japan opened up to trade with the West in the 1850s, artists could not compete with western technical innovations such as photography, and the art began to die out. When the prints themselves arrived in Europe, with their fluent outlines, large areas of flat colour, and unusual compositions, they influenced a whole generation of artists including the Impressionists.

Subjects: Art.

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