From Black and White through Brocade: The Development of Woodblock-Printing Techniques in 18th-Century Japan

  • Exhib_slideshow_exhibition_brocade_014840_2

    Suzuki Harunobu (1725–1770). 'The Story of Giō (Hotoke-Gozen): Dancing Before Kiyomori.' Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), c.1765. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. Gift of James A. Michener, 1959 (14840).

  • Exhib_slideshow_exhibition_brocade_016077_2

    Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671–1750). 'Princess Soto’ori and the Spider.' Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), 1720s. Woodblock print; ink on paper. Gift of James A. Michener, 1971 (16077).

Slide_prev_over Slide_next_over

April 07, 2016 - June 05, 2016
Honolulu Museum of Art

Exhibition Overview

The subtle, pink blush of cherry blossoms, the glamorous pastels of kimono, the charming vibrancy of seasonal landscapes, and the dramatic Prussian blue of ocean waves. While the reserved palette of monochromatic prints has unmistakable appeal, ukiyo-e is most widely celebrated for its spectacular use of color. The origins of polychromatic printmaking, however, remain a mystery to many viewers.

Beginning with the elegant black-and-white book illustrations of Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671–1750), this print rotation reveals the stylistic evolution of Japanese woodblock printmaking over the short span of the 18th century, including the hand-application of cinnabar (Japanese: tan-e) and colored lacquer (urushi-e), as well as the development of multi-block woodblock printmaking (nishiki-e; literally, “brocade prints”). Some of the works on view will include up to 10 distinct colors.

Also on display in the alcove of the adjoining Japan gallery will be works by the celebrated print designer Suzuki Harunobu (1725—1770), who is credited with the innovation of nishiki-e.