Lesson 6

Next Lesson Japanese art―浮世絵



A genre of art, chiefly in the medium(手段) of the woodblock print[木版画], that arose early in the Edo period (1600-1868) and built up a broad popular market among the middle classes. Subject matter tended to focus on the brothel districts[遊廓: 代表的なのは吉原] and the Kabuki [歌舞伎] theaters, and formats ranged from single-sheet prints[単版刷り] and greeting cards to albums and book illustrations. Ukiyo-e flourished(栄える) throughout Japan, attaining their most characteristic form in the prints produced in Edo (now Tokyo) from about 1680 to the 1850s.



The distinctive milieu(文化的環境) from which ukiyo-e would emerge was flourishing as early as the Kan'ei era[寛永時代] (1624-1644). Genre paintings [風俗画] of the time depict pleasure seekers of every social class thronging(群がる) the entertainment district beside the river Kamogawa[鴨川] in Kyoto. It was in such districts, in Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo, that there developed the freewheeling(自由奔放な) way of life of the floating world[浮世], and the genre of art, ukiyo-e, that glorified(賛美する) it.



By the late 17th century, the center of ukiyo-e had shifted from Kyoto-Osaka[上方] area to Edo, where the single-sheet print, probably initially intended for mounting(はめこ) on() scrolls (掛物絵), seems to have become a specialty in the closing years of the Genroku era[元禄時代](1688-1704).

It was the development of the single-sheet print, which marked a turning point in the history of ukiyo-e, the coming of age of which was closely joined to that of kabuki. A major role in the development of kabuki was played by Ichikawa Danjuro I[一世市川団十郎], who invented a bombastic(大げさな) style of acting known as aragoto[荒事] that became immensely popular in Edo. Portrayals of actors[役者絵] in popular roles had already become standard subject matter of ukiyo-e, but it was the Torii school[鳥居派] that achieved the greatest success in rendering the pyrotechnics(華々しくすること) of an aragoto performance in graphic terms. Torii Kiyonobu I[一世鳥居清信] and Torii Kiyomasu I[鳥居清松] perfected a style that, with its vigorous use of line and robust(逞しい) forms, was particularly appropriate for theatrical(演劇の) subjects. And their school soon acquired a virtual monopoly over commissions(仕事の割り当て) in Edo for painted theatrical posters[看板] and illustrated program notes[絵番付]. The finest of the Torii school prints, recording a pose or entrance popularized by a particular actor, are in the large kakemono-e format, and provided a visual catalog of theatrical conventions(しきたり) that reinforced kabuki tradition. A separate theatrical print style arose in Osaka.



In about 1745, a technique was conceived(思いつく) for registering(組み合わせる) successive(一連の) block, each printing different color on a single sheet. The resulting prints, called pictures printed in red[紅刷り絵] because the most striking color was a red derived from the petals(花びら) of the safflower[紅花], were produced only in two or three colors. It was not until 1764 that the first full-color prints appeared. The development is closely associated with the sudden popularity of the work of Suzuki Harunobu[鈴木春信]. By 1766 almost every ukiyo-e artist[浮世絵師] was working in Harunobu's style. These new prints, called brocade pictures[錦絵] or Edo pictures[江戸絵], represented the final stage of technical advancement in color printing achieved in the Edo period.



The late 18th century was largely a period of consolidation(確立) rather than innovation; however, development of the more generous large-size format[大版] and the introduction of diptychs(ニ連の) and triptychs(三連の) led to more complex composition. After 1790, ukiyo-e images acquired a new intensity and styles began to succeed one another with greater rapidity. Utamaro[喜多川歌麿] and Sharaku[東洲斎写楽] achieved a heightened closeness(親しみ) to their subjects by using the format of the bust portrait[大首絵]. Utamaro was one of the first to isolate his figures(人物) against a brilliant mica background[雲母刷り].

After 1800, there appears to have been a radical change in taste, accompanied by a faltering(行き詰る) of inspiration in design and deterioration(劣化) in the quality of printing. Short figures with bunched(丸まった) shoulders and a sharp(目鼻立)-()featured(のはっきりした) face replaced the tall, elegant figures of the 1770s and 1780s, kimono patterns became coarser(粗雑な) and more strident(どぎつい), and pictures of actors tended toward the exaggerated(誇張された) and grotesque. One reason for this was change in the print-buying public, which had grown larger and presumably less discriminating(目の肥えた), resulting in prints that were produced hastily many showing faulty(粗悪な) registration(組み合わせ) of colors and in great numbers.





The emergence of the landscape print[風景画] was a relatively late phenomenon in the history of ukiyo-e. Prior to Hokusai's[葛飾北斎] ‘Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji’[『富嶽三十六景』(1823)], landscape as independent subject matter for ukiyo-e was largely unknown. Other artists soon followed Hokusai's lead, and landscape achieved a popularity that rivaled the established genres of portraiture(肖像画). Active as an artist for some 60 years, Hokusai developed a style that was highly individual, combining Chinese and Western influences with elements drawn from the native Kano school[狩野派], the Tosa school[土佐派], and the Rimpa[琳派] tradition. He was also a prolific(多作の) draftsman(製図技師) who employed a variety of techniques to create the astounding array(多数の) of images in his famous 13-volume ‘Hokusai's Sketches’[『北斎漫画』(1814-49)].  

Hokusai's only true rival in landscape was Ando Hiroshige[安藤広重] whose great masterpiece(名作), ‘The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road’[『東海道五十四次』(1833-34)] brought him fame and a host of imitators. Hiroshige displays in this and other works a greater concern than Hokusai with atmosphere, light, and weather. Drawing on the style of certain of the landscape paintings of the Southern Song dynasty[南宋王朝(1127-1279)], he was also influenced by the contemporaneous(同時代の) Maruyama-Shijo school [円山四条派] and Western realism.  

As an integral element of the Edo-period culture that it mirrored(反映する), ukiyo-e was unable to survive that society's demise(崩壊) in() the() wake(結果と) of(して) the radical Westernization(西洋化) that transformed Japan during the Meiji period (1868-1912).



休館日   月曜日(月曜が休日の場合は翌日)

開館時間   午前11:00 午後6:00(入館は午後5:30まで)


Next Lesson Japanese art―俳句と和歌




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