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Buy Japanese art Ukiyoe woodblock prints online

Updated on June 08, 2010

Ukiyoe woodblock print

Women at a bath house
Women at a bath house

Ukiyo-e slideshow

Buy Japanese art Ukiyoe woodblock prints online

If you are looking for a fast and easy way to instantly transform your house or room, consider adding some artwork. A piece of quality art helps add personality and liven up your living space. Japanese Ukiyoe woodblock prints are fascinating works of art that can give your room a cultured and sophisticated touch. These paintings are not only remarkably gorgeous, but also they are rich in history and culture. These woodblock prints also make fabulous housewarming gifts. Take a look at some of these famous prints by some of the most prominent and well-loved Ukiyoe artists.

"Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one." ~Stella Adler

"What art offers is space - a certain breathing room for the spirit. " ~John Updike

1) Kitagawa Utamaro (1753 - 1806)

If you are interested in paintings that capture a woman's sensuality and feminine beauty, consider buying Utamaro's work.  He is most famous for his paintings of geishas and courtesans, or what is called "bijin-ga" (literally, pictures of beautiful women).  He also involved himself in erotica paintings, which were acceptable in all circles in Japanese society at the time, and nature studies of animals and insects.  Utamaro is well known for his masterly command of light and shade in his paintings.

2) Toshusai Sharaku (unknown dates, but active from 1794-5)

If you are into unique and original styles of portraits, Sharaku's work might be for you. Many consider him to be one of the three best portrait artists in the world (along with Rembrandt and Velazquez).  He is famous for his paintings of Kabuki actors though his career lasted only 10 months because many people at the time thought that his paintings were overly realistic in the portrayals of the actors' characters and features. This style was not popular back then and turned many buyers off. Owing to the fact that his career was short-lived, the limited number of his work means they are relatively rare and can fetch some extremely high prices in auctions and the marketplace.

3) Katsushika Hokusai (1760 - 1849)

If landscape art is more your thing, consider buying works by Hokusai.  Hokusai is one of the most famous ukiyoe artists, who expanded the woodblock art genre to include paintings of landscapes and nature.  One of his masterpieces is called "Thirty-six views of Mt. Fuji", where Mt. Fuji is the central theme and is shown in various seasons and weather conditions from different distances and angles.  His artwork is complicated, employing a wide range of colors - a difficult feat for woodblock art as the ink needed to be applied using a series of woodblocks. He is considered to be both a master draftsman and colorist.

4) Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

Another landscape ukiyoe artist, nearly equal to Hokusai in fame, popularity and artistic genius. Two of his most famous works are "The Fifty-three stations of the Tokaido" and "One hundred famous views of Edo". Though at first glance, Hiroshige's work appears to be quite similar to Hokusai's, there are some very distinct differences between the two. For example, Hiroshige placed a lot of emphasis on ambience and atmosphere while Hokusai painted with sharper and more forceful lines. Another difference is Hiroshige painted what he visually saw while Hokusai had a more spiritual feel towards his subjects.

5) Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892)

If you prefer a more historical, intense and serious kind of paintings, buy works by Yoshitoshi. He is often referred to as the last great Ukiyoe artist, as his career came at the time when Ukiyoe was about to be displaced by the introduction of photography and lithography from the West. In the early years of his career, he painted gruesome scenes of death and violence, which earned him fame and many still know him for this.  However, his work actually had a wide range of subjects such as historical scenes, women and kabuki actors and scenes.  His most famous works are titled "One hundred aspects of the moon", which has the moon as the central theme, and "New forms of thirty-six ghosts".

Demonstration of the printing process

Brief history of Ukiyoe

Ukiyo-e (literally, "pictures of the floating world) is a Japanese art genre of woodblock prints and paintings that originated during the Edo period (1600-1868) and proliferated into the Meiji era (up to 1912) in Edo (now Tokyo), Japan. The subject matter of ukiyoe concerns mainly the realm of entertainment and hedonistic worldly pleasures such as the theaters and brothels, but later on in its development, branched into nature and landscape art. Ukiyoe was considered a "low" art form at the time because they normally depict people from the lower strata of society - geishas, Kabuki actors, and courtesans. Ukiyoe quickly became popular among the wealthy merchants, who were the lowest (but richest) in the social hierarchy, since this allowed them to enjoy things usually reserved only for the upper class elites.

Ukiyoe were often used as illustrations for storybooks and novels as well as posters to advertise the theaters and brothels. Ukiyoe quickly achieved popularity among the common people because they were affordable due to its ability to be mass-produced.  Ukiyoe also had an influence on some European impressionists such as Van Gogh, Renoir and Monet.  Ukiyoe as an art form declined with the introduction of photography and lithography from the west.


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    • suny51 profile image

      suny51 6 years ago

      anolinde-I am a great admirer of Japan and every thing that's inclusive of people,art,technology and the value for time.,I simply love Japan.

    • Anolinde profile image

      Anolinde 6 years ago

      Hi Suny. Yes, I love many aspects of Japanese culture and art myself. I love ukiyoe, all their martial arts (especially Kendo, Aikido and Naginata), tea ceremony .. all of them! :)

    • suny51 profile image

      suny51 6 years ago

      and Sumos?,Anolinde

    • Anolinde profile image

      Anolinde 6 years ago

      Yep, that too!

    • profile image

      Anders Rikardson 5 years ago

      If you would like to buy Japanese prints from specialized Japanese print dealers.

      Here is a long list:

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