Japanese prints are the most popular art form to have emerged from the Far East. After the prints first appeared in the West in the late nineteenth century, the startling originality of the designs and the often brilliant colors influenced several generations of artists including Degas, Whistler and Van Gogh.
Much of the fascination lies in their subject matter, which was drawn from all that was most exciting about Japanese life, wheter it was wildly dramatic Kabuki plays, the beautiful courtesans of the Yoshiwara, the heroes from the legendary past, and the varied and impressive landscape of the country itself. Richard Illing, in his lively and informative text, surveys the whole range of Japanese prints from their beginnings in the seventeenth century to the present day. Against a background of the social and political history of Japan, he explains how they developed from book illustrations, principally through the genius of Moronobu, and how the technical possibilities of woodblock printing were advanced through the work of Masanobu and Harunobu, who prepared the way for the astonishing flowering of the art in the late eighteen century, when such artists as Kiyonaga, Utamaro and Eishi produced designs of unparalleled beauty and elegance. Richard Illing also re-assesses the work of late artists, whose powerful compositions and considerable versatility were too long underrated. The large number of illustrations (including 70 in full color) reveal the astonishing range of Japanese prints - from the grand designs of Hokusai, which show the activities of man dwarfed by awe-inspiring scenery, to the almost comic Yokohama-e pictures which show just how strange the Japanese found the European traders who visited them after 1867. Among the illustrations are masterpieces by famous artists which have never been reproduced before. The book will be particularly useful to collectors. A full list of signatures makes it possible to identify the artist of almost any print. And Richard Illing, a notable collector himself, gives helpful suggestions to those people who are just starting to build up a collection.
Published by Omega Books Limited, United Kingdom, 1984
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