Rhapsody In Blue And Red: Ukiyo-E Prints of the Utagawa School

Woodblock prints became a primary visual mode of communication, portraying many aspects of life and popular culture during Japan’s Edo period (1615-1868). By the eighteenth century, artists of the Utagawa School came to prominence and ultimately went on to produce more than half of the ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”) now extant. The success of this lineage was due not just to talent and hard work, but also to brilliant marketing and diversification — themes explored in this exhibition of actor, beauty, and landscape prints designed by Utagawa artists such as Kunisada (1786-1864), Kuniyoshi (1797-1861), Hiroshige (1797-1858), and their followers.

In Winter 2020, Art History Professor Akiko Walley and Chief Curator Anne Rose Kitagawa team-taught an Utagawa School course, in which students studied this vibrant artistic tradition and learned about exhibition planning in order to contribute to this installation, which features more than 30 loans from Lee and Mary Jean Michels along with prints from the museum’s permanent collection.

Image: UTAGAWA Hiroshige (1797-1858). Japanese; Edo period, 1857. Asakusa Ricefields and Torinomachi Festival (Asakusa tanbo Torinomachi mōde), from the series from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei). Ukiyo-e woodblock print in vertical ōban format; ink and color on paper, 14-3/4 x 10 inches. Loan from the Lee & Mary Jean Michels Collection.


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