Edo Pop & Other Examples of Ukiyo-e’s Influence
The new exhibit at the Japan Society, Edo Pop, playfully juxtaposes classic Japanese prints from such masters such as Hokusai and Hiroshige with contemporary works inspired by these artists and their works. With over 160 prints borrowed from the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s prized collection of Ukiyo-e prints, the exhibit highlights the influence the images have had on pop artists such as Japanese born (but based in Brooklyn) Lady Aiko, above. The point of the exhibit is undoubtably to show the influence of these images. However, the artists at the Japan Society’s exhibit are by no means the only great artists who were influenced by this seminal form.
Ukiyo-e, for the novice, is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints (or woodcuts) and paintings that were produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring scenes of landscapes, tales from history, the theatre, and the pleasure quarters. The term “ukiyo” literally comes from the the phrase “floating world,” referring to a conception of an impermanent, luxurious, fleeting, and beautiful world populated with entertainments (kabuki, courtesans, geisha). The world of Ukiyo-e is meant to depict life in its most blissful, devoid of the everyday. This video is an introduction to the form made by the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
These prints were a source of inspiration for Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), who greatly admired the boldness and clarity of Ukiyo-e. Van Gogh even produced copies of works by Ukiyo-e masters, such as his Japonaiserie: Bridge in the Rain (1887, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam). Other works which include motifs borrowed from Ukiyo-e woodcuts include his Flowering Plum Tree (1887, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) and The Courtesan (1887, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam). The latter is based on a print by Keisai Eisen (1790–1848) taken from the cover of the magazine Paris Illustrated. In addition, Van Gogh’s Portrait of Pere Tanguy (1887, Musee Rodin, Paris) contains images of six different Ukiyo-e works as part of the background.
Hiroshige (left) & van Gogh (right)
Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) was also a fan of Ukiyo-e a, particularly the flat areas of over-the-top color and exaggerated facial expressions. His iconic poster art is a direct French corollary to these Japanese pleasure prints, and the influence continues in the work Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s “Divan Japonais”
The influences continue. Here are some other artists where the Ukiyo-e effect clearly left its mark: Mary Cassatt; Paul Gauguin; Edgar Degas; Claude Monet; Auguste Renoir; Camille Pissarro; Felix Vallotton; Aubrey Beardsley; Alphonse Mucha; Gustave Klimt; Frank Lloyd Wright; Edward W.Godwin; and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Thanks to HokusaiOnline.co.uk, for reminding us of the art facts we studied while in Japan and helping us to compile the information in this article!