Ukiyo-e (浮世 絵 ukiyo-ye, lit. "images of the floating world") is a kind of Japanese art print on paper, imprinted with wooden matrices, born and developed during the Edo period, between the beginning of the seventeenth and the end of the 19th century.
The artist made a preliminary drawing with ink on the paper which was then taken to the engraver's workshop to be glued on a cherry wood board and, through the use of various tools, reproduced leaving the lines of the drawing the artist and digging out everything else.
The woodcut on wire wood is performed on a board obtained from a longitudinal cut of the trunk (usually pear, walnut, apple, cherry, beech), which is engraved using the knife and the gouge, a tool with a concave end.
Before, the world of art was destined for the nobility and the religious class. Now the woodcut follows the historical change that Japan is experiencing. Merchants and artisans are the new protagonists and can both recognize themselves in this artistic genre and afford it economically.
They are then depicting scenes from everyday life where the protagonists are men, nature, animals, plants, landscapes and more.
They are then depicting scenes from everyday life where the protagonists are men, nature, animals, plants, landscapes and more.
Often it is also the internal and intimate settings that take over, always under a veil of vitality and lightness. We find consequences: the courtesans (geishas) who comb their hair, who take a bath; the actors with their mimic masks and their clothes; scenes of sexual life, often censored. Thus, the spirit and atmosphere that a Japanese man of that time could experience is represented: the war was over and now tranquility and lightheartedness were part of that unstoppable life cycle full of pleasures and enjoyments.
Japanese woodcut is also and above all distinguished by its colors and shades. Before the prints were colored by hand, now the water colors are printed on multiple matrices, which give the print fascinating shades.

However, the procedure requires the presence of several figures in order to create a graphic. There are those who draw, those who copy it on the transparent sheet, those who carve, those who print. In addition, the projects go through censorship control before they are engraved on the matrix. Once the OK is obtained, the team of artists can begin the carving process, usually done on cherry.
Specifically, the expert cuts the most difficult area, the rest is entrusted to the assistants. At this point, having completed the carving work, "the baton" is passed to the printer who makes 15 copies in black and white to be shown to the painter, who indicates how to continue with the colors. The woodcutter carves as many matrices as there are colors.
The carving and inking phase are part of a ritual, an intimate moment to be able to meditate and find peace with yourself. In Japanese culture it is easier to find similar aspects, where the spiritual component plays an important role. I had even read that the Japanese xylographer changes the kimono according to the phase of work he is about to face. Definitely a solemn and absolute attitude.
Japanese woodcut, for many centuries linked to the Buddhist world and Chinese culture, experienced a real rebirth from the seventeenth century thanks to the artists of the Ukiyo-e school founded by Moronobu (1625-1694). The development of this school, in contrast to the traditional Kano and Tosa schools which had long been an expression of the aristocratic and religious culture, drew nourishment from the historical changes that Japan was going through.
The most famous print of the most famous ukiyo woodcuts is Kanagawa's "The Great Wave", first published by Hokusai around 1830.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ashley
    Apr 07, 2022 @ 09:13:06

    Great post, Fairy Queen. I love this way of producing a print. 🤗 later 🙏


  2. Ashley
    Apr 07, 2022 @ 10:40:30

    This post has also reminded me to return to the printing process. 🤗🌹🙋‍♂️


  3. Jaya Avendel
    Apr 07, 2022 @ 13:25:21

    How absolutely beautiful!


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