The Japanese colored woodblock print is among the most familiar and popular East Asian art forms in the West, thanks to the 19th-century fashion for all things Japanese―a fashion which brought about a huge transformation in Western art.
Within Japan, the impact was just as significant. The perfection of the Japanese woodblock print―a truly popular art―was not only a technical and economic feat, but also set off a cultural and social revolution. From the hand-colored prints of the 18th century to the famous depictions of the pleasure quarter and kabuki theater, from Meiji-era illustrations of the Sino-Japanese War to the modern “new woodblock print” of the early 20th century, the Japanese woodblock print married technological and formal innovation in a uniquely accessible form. It could convey images of all kinds, at low cost, to a demanding public hungry for information and enjoyment. It was the medium of a new, modern information culture.
The Printed Image offers a chance to rediscover Japan’s groundbreaking woodblock printing culture. Cologne’s Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst has been collecting Japanese woodblock prints and books for more than 100 years, and this publication brings together the best of its holdings in a major new survey of the art form.