The Japanese Art of Ukiyo-e

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The Japanese art of Ukiyo-e (pronounced o-kee-yo-ay? is a truly unique style of classical artistry that has inspired many people around the world. Ukiyo-e has particularly influenced the styles of many artists and designers. From the renowned western impressionists such as Van Gogh and Monet, to illustrious modern architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, the list of famous western icons strongly influenced by this style of Japanese art is rather extensive. Ukiyo-e often seems to exemplify illustration and design at its best. The way Ukiyo-e artists have traditionally illustrated a combination of nature, human society, and architecture in such an aesthetically pleasing way is truly impressive. Modern illustration has been greatly influenced by the art, either directly or through a lineage of inspiration in which a previous designer was influenced by the stylistic innovations of Ukiyo-e. You may be surprised to find that even the popular western artistic movement and style, known as rt Nouveau? was largely a westernized version of the amazingly influential Japanese art.


You may be wondering about the origins of the Japanese art of Ukiyo-e. kiyo?(literally translated as 渢he floating world? was the name given to the world of sophisticated urban entertainment experienced in the city of Tokyo during the period when it was actually known as Edo. During the Edo period (1603-1868), the Tokugawa military dictatorship controlling much of Japan required that the country wealthy landowners and their military forces reside part of the time in the city of Edo where the dictatorship was based. This ensured that any who would otherwise threaten the dictatorship would not have a sufficient moment to plan a hostile takeover in secrecy by building an army elsewhere. A result of all of this was a spectacular entertainment industry catering to these wealthy visitors. Thankfully the industry eventually grew to serve the general populace of the city of Edo itself and became known as Ukiyo, the floating world. The 渆?at the end of Ukiyo-e simply translates as 渋mages? and this art form basically began as images of the world of Edo pleasurable delights. Ukiyo-e evolved and the prints later spread into the rest of the world following the re-opening of Japan borders in the second half of the 19th century, around 200 years after the first prints reportedly began appearing in Japan.


One notably famous Ukiyo-e artist was known as Hokusai, and his iconic masterpiece titled ?6 Views of Mount Fuji?is a spectacular example of Japan traditional visual culture. This is a wonderful series of woodblock prints which skillfully depict various scenes of Japanese society with a picturesque view of Japan favorite mountain appearing somewhere in each print. It was so popular that he followed it up with a series titled ?00 Views of Mount Fuji? Hokusai art and that of his contemporaries is still seen throughout Japan today. What is even more amazing is how wonderful and skillful the illustrations still appear.

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