Japanese Prints from the Permanent Collection

Curated by Pilar Forrest

February 3, 2024 - June 9, 2024

Second Floor Corridor Gallery

This exhibition features a selection of the Museum’s vibrant Japanese print collection. Made in the nineteenth and twentieth-centuries, these woodblock prints represent three significant Japanese print movements: ukiyo-e, shin-hanga, and sōsaku-hanga.

From the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, ukiyo-e was the premier genre of Japanese printmaking. Meaning “picture(s) of the floating world,” ukiyo-e depicted themes related to entertainment and beauty, intended to reflect the hedonistic pleasures and interests of its merchant class patrons. The production of ukiyo-e was characterized by a division of labor process, in which the publisher, designer, woodcarver, and printer all held equally responsible roles. However, credit for the final products were usually only attributed to the publisher and the designer. Common ukiyo-e subjects included actors and performances from kabuki theater (yakusha-e), beautiful women (bijin-ga), travel landscapes, and flowers. 

The shin-hanga or “new prints” movement revitalized traditional ukiyo-e printmaking with an added influence from Western art. The shin-hanga artists used new effects of light and tried to express individual moods in their prints. These artists rendered many of the same subjects as seen in ukiyo-e. 

Contemporaneous with shin-hanga, the sōsaku-hanga movement, which means “creative prints,” promoted complete freedom of creation and production. Most sōsaku-hanga artists did not work collaboratively like ukiyo-e and shin-hanga artists, but instead focused on individual self-expression and conducted every aspect of the creative process themselves, including drawing, carving the woodblock, and printing. 

Featured artists include: Utagawa Hiroshige, Hasui Kawase, Amano Kunihiro, Gihachiro Okuyama, Takahashi Shōtei, Kitagawa Utamaro, and Utagawa Yoshiume.