Today I went to the 「よみがえる浮世絵 －うるわしき大正新版画」特別展覧会 (Taisho-era Shin-hanga Ukiyo-e Prints Special Exhibit) at the 「江戸東京博物館」 (“Edo-Tokyo Museum“).
I like Japanese 浮世絵 (Ukiyo-e woodblock print) art. I have a few posts about exhibits I’ve seen before (click here to read one I wrote almost exactly twelve months ago).
But this exhibit was different.
Traditional 浮世絵 (woodblock print) art was done from the 江戸時代 (Edo era (17th – mid 19th centuries)) until the 明治時代 (Meiji era (1868 – 1912 (Japan’s modernization period))).
During the 明治時代 (Meiji era), traditional arts such as 浮世絵 (woodblock prints) began losing popularity because they were seen as dated and old-fashioned…and Japan was in a rush to “modernize” during this period.
But, ironically, while Japanese people were losing interest in 浮世絵 (woodblock prints), they were becoming chic and popular in America and Europe during these years.
So during Japan’s 大正時代 (Taisho era (1912 – 1926)) until the first half of the 昭和時代 (Showa era (1926 – 1989), a new, modern style of 浮世絵 (woodblock prints) emerged.
They’re called 「新版画」 (“Shin-hanga“…or “New style prints”).
Due to the popularity of 新版画 (Shin-hanga) in America and Europe during these years, many American and European artists came to Tokyo to learn the art of 新版画 (Shin-hanga) from the “masters”.
So the exhibit that I went to today had art by Japanese 新版画 (Shin-hanga) artists…as well as Japanese-style Shin-hanga prints by American and European artists.
It was very interesting!
Unfortunately after World War II, Japanese society changed alot and now there are very few 浮世絵 (ukiyo-e) or 新版画 (shin-hanga) artists today.
But there is good news, it seems that 新版画 (Shin-hanga) is currently becoming popular again both in Japan and overseas…so maybe more artists will study the craft and keep this tradition alive.