“Another blockbuster from TASCHEN… gives star billing to the big three of Hokusai, Hiroshige and Utamaro, but also has plenty of room within its more than 600 pages for less celebrated but invariably fascinating figures.
— Evening Standard, London
The Japanese woodblock print is a phenomenon with no Western equivalent, one where breathtaking landscapes exist alongside blush-inducing erotica; where demons and otherworldly creatures torment the living; and where sumo wrestlers, kabuki actors, and courtesans are rock stars. This XXL book lifts the veil on a much-loved but little-understood art, revealing the stories and people behind the 200 most exceptional prints from 1680–1938. Drawing from the finest impressions in museums and private collections around the world, it features the work of 89 artists as well as 17 fold-outs.
Hardcover, 29 x 39.5 cm, 622 pages
Multilingual Edition: English, French, German
From Edouard Manet’s portrait of naturalist writer Émile Zola sitting among his Japanese art finds to Van Gogh’s meticulous copies of the Hiroshige prints he devotedly collected, 19th-century pioneers of European modernism made no secret of their love of Japanese art. In all its sensuality, freedom, and effervescence, the woodblock print is single-handedly credited with the wave of japonaiserie that first enthralled France and, later, all of Europe—but often remains misunderstood as an “exotic” artifact that helped inspire Western creativity.
The fact is that the Japanese woodblock print is a phenomenon of which there exists no Western equivalent. Some of the most disruptive ideas in modern art—including, as Karl Marx put it, that “all that is solid melts into air”—were invented in Japan in the 1700s and expressed like never before in the designs of such masters as Hokusai, Utamaro, and Hiroshige in the early 19th century.
This book lifts the veil on a much-loved but little-understood art form by presenting the 200 most exceptional Japanese woodblock prints in their historical context. Ranging from the 17th-century development of decadent ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world,” to the decline and later resurgence of prints in the early 20th century, the images collected in this edition make up an unmatched record not only of a unique genre in art history, but also of the shifting mores and cultural development of Japan.
From mystical mountains to snowy passes, samurai swordsmen to sex workers in shop windows, each piece is explored as a work of art in its own right, revealing the stories and people behind the motifs. We discover the four pillars of the woodblock print—beauties, actors, landscapes, and bird-and-flower compositions—alongside depictions of sumo wrestlers, kabuki actors, or enticing courtesans—rock stars who populated the “floating world” and whose fan bases fueled the frenzied production of woodblock prints. We delve into the horrifying and the obscure in prints where demons, ghosts, man-eaters, and otherworldly creatures torment the living—stunning images that continue to influence Japanese manga, film, and video games to this day. We witness how, in their incredible breadth, from everyday scenes to erotica, the martial to the mythological, these works are united by the technical mastery and infallible eye of their creators and how, with tremendous ingenuity and tongue-in-cheek wit, publishers and artists alike fought to circumvent government censorship.
Three years in the making, this XXL edition presents reproductions of the finest extant impressions from the vaults of museums and private collections across the globe—many newly photographed especially for this project. Some 17 stunning fold-outs invite us to study even the subtlest details, while extensive descriptions guide us through this frantic period in Japanese art history.
The work of 89 artists, from the world-renowned to the unfamiliar
7 chapters organised chronologically to trace the history of the medium from 1680 to 1938
17 fold-outs, hand-folded due to their size and specifications
Exclusive reproductions from museums and private collections
An appendix listing all artists and works
Andreas Marks studied East Asian art history at the University of Bonn and obtained his PhD in Japanese studies from Leiden University with a thesis on 19th-century actor prints. From 2008 to 2013 he was director and chief curator of the Clark Center for Japanese Art in Hanford, California, and since 2013 has been the Mary Griggs Burke Curator of Japanese and Korean Art, head of the Department of Japanese and Korean Art, and director of the Clark Center for Japanese Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
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