November 01, 2023 1 Comment
You can't talk about Japanese art prints without first giving a nod to the astonishing beauty they encapsulate. Often a delicate dance between tradition and artistry, these prints offer a glimpse into the culture of Japan in ways no other art form can.
So today, let's explore the top 10 most beautiful Japanese art prints that have captured the hearts of art aficionados around the globe.
It's worth mentioning that Japanese art prints, particularly those from the Ukiyo-e genre, have been an iconic part of Japan's cultural tapestry. Born out of the Edo period, these prints are more than just art; they are a narrative on the values, beliefs, and everyday life of the Japanese people.
During the Edo period, a flowering of culture and art was evident. This period saw the rise of Japanese woodblock prints as a form of mass art. More than just visuals to admire, these prints have had an irreplaceable role in Japanese culture and history. The ukiyo-e tradition, for example, depicts subjects from landscapes to beautiful women, all the way to kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers.
It's impossible to discuss Japanese art prints without mentioning the unique techniques used in their creation.
At the forefront is the art of Japanese woodblock printing, where each colour in a print usually requires a separate block. This process has heavily influenced how these prints are made, and it’s the cornerstone of the ukiyo-e art form.
Ah, where do we even start? This iconic Hokusai print is arguably the most recognisable Japanese art print, and for good reason!
It’s been featured everywhere, from Japanese wall art collections to the front covers of textbooks.
The Great Wave off Kanagawa stands as a hallmark in the world of Japanese art prints. This piece not only reflects the skill of its artist, Hokusai, but also serves as an iconic representation of Japanese wall art. It’s a classic image that even those who are unfamiliar with Japanese art can instantly recognise.
Often replicated but never duplicated, The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai is the poster child for Japanese wall art. This remarkable piece needs little introduction; its ubiquitous presence says it all. As for Hokusai, the genius behind this masterpiece, his work transcends the norms of Ukiyo-e art, capturing the human experience in a single frame.
Let's talk Hokusai for a moment, shall we? The man was a genius, a legend in the truest sense. He mastered Ukiyo-e art during a time when it was not just a craft but a significant form of expression.
Yet another Hokusai gem, this art piece exudes the kind of serenity only he could portray. Rooted in Japanese folklore and poetry, this Hokusai print speaks volumes without saying a word.
With the inscription: “White dews sparkle over the autumn field where wind sweeps; I expect an instant amid the dew-wet grass.” This print depicts an almost ethereal scene that could only be executed with the kind of skill Hokusai had.
Hokusai had a diverse range of works that contributed significantly to this art form. His other famous prints include "Red Fuji" and "Fine Wind, Clear Morning."
Another masterpiece is this entrancing whirlpool art print by Hiroshige.
Considered a marvel in its own right, Hiroshige's creation captures the mystical allure of nature. When you look at this Japanese wave print, you're not just seeing art; you're feeling a moment suspended in time. Hiroshige gave us something that was both visually spellbinding and emotive.
Utagawa Hiroshige was a master in his own right. Known for his series "Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido," Hiroshige brought landscapes to life like no other. His style of art deeply influenced Western artists and continues to be highly regarded today.
It's hard to discuss Japanese wall art without mentioning Kawase Hasui. His work, like the exquisite "Toshogu Shrine", often features nature and traditional landscapes, frozen in moments that stand the test of time. However, his prints such as this one feature locales that are tranquil yet feature more urban Japanese scenes.
This shrine-themed art piece by Kawase Hasui offers a sacred peek into Japanese tradition. It's as if you're walking in a serene, other-worldly temple, surrounded by nature’s beauty.
There is a lone figure and there has been speculation as to the significance of repeated lone figures in Hasui’s prints. One theory is that they express the artist’s lonely existenceHis true skill though, lies in suspending the viewers sense of time. These pieces have the feel of a long ago period of time where life were simpler with a sense of nostalgia which is in stark contrast to the upheaval during his life; the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake which destroyed his workshop, and the war in Japan during his later years. Yet none of this ever shows in his work, and his works are highly sought after by collectors.
Another masterpiece by Kawase Hasui, "Taisho Pond at Kamikochi" is a mood in itself. Imagine walking through an art gallery and feeling the calm wash over you when you see this print.
Though his subjects were less known locations rendered with naturalistic light, shade, and texture, without the captions and titles that were standard in prints of Hiroshige's age
In 1920, Hasui created his inaugural series of snowfall prints, setting a new standard in the realm of colour woodblock printing.
Reflecting on his early work, he noted that the innovative techniques he employed in carving and form often drew complaints from artisans. Nonetheless, Hasui was skilled enough in carving to know that it was feasible for craftsmen to produce the necessary blocks.
Some of his most captivating snow prints seamlessly blend traditional Japanese styles with Western approaches to lighting and shading. These works stand as modern continuations of Hiroshige's classic prints.
You can’t talk about Japanese art prints without mentioning Ohara Koson, famous for some of the most recognisable Japanese imagery.
Ohara Koson, renowned for his nature prints, brings an ethereal touch to this art piece featuring cranes, a classic image of his. The cranes stand regal, yet peaceful, providing a unique glimpse into the natural world.
This style of print will add a really sophisticated, gallery-style feel to any room with its subtle hues and neutral feel.
Speaking of cranes, 7 Cranes by Korin is an absolute classic. The number 7 represents multiple layers of meaning in Japanese culture. The cranes, often viewed as auspicious creatures in Japan, take centre stage in this visually stunning print.
This bold composition presents a grouping of black and white red-crowned cranes, cranes extending to the left and right across a gold background. It is the work of Ogata Korin, a painter representative of the Edo period who created his own world with innovative compositions and graceful depictions
Ogata Korin was a maverick who challenged the norms of his time. Known for his decorative Rinpa school of painting, his work "Red and White Plum Blossoms" is considered a national treasure in Japan
Soseki Komori’s Moorhens and lotus flower design takes an almost meditative approach to portraying its subject. The gentle strokes and muted colours evoke a sense of stillness and grace.
The Japanese woodblock prints by Soseki Komori can keep up with prints made by the great kacho-e (images of birds and flowers) artist Ohara Koson. But Soseki Komori is a mystery. No information is available about the artist, not even the year of his birth and death.
Aoyama's Horse print series give off a vibe that's unmistakably spirited and uniquely Japanese. These prints are a nod to the age-old fascination with equine beauty in the culture.
These captivating equine prints from Aoyama are all about dynamism and spirit. Rooted in Japan's long-standing admiration for horses.
This piece is done in a fluid calligraphic line conveying a real sense of movement. A wonderful use of a limited colour palette, with shades of grey and black against a taupe background
Almost nothing is known about the artist Ayoama Seizan. His known work is a series of horses in “Zen style” in the 1920s and 1930s for the Shima Art Company.
As an artist who adds a contemporary twist to traditional art forms, Aoyama’s work is refreshing and innovative. He is a perfect example of how modern artists contribute to the ever-evolving landscape of Japanese wall art.
Breaking away from the traditional woodblock print, we have the mesmerising work of Ogawa Kazumasa, a revolutionary figure in Japanese art. Not merely confined to the woodblock, Kazumasa took a modern approach by fusing his talent in photography, printing, and publishing. In the twilight years of the 19th century, he gifted the world with his book "Some Japanese Flowers" in 1896, a celebration of Japan's flora through the photomechanical printing process.
One print that particularly stands out is his Lotus Flower. Unlike the vibrant hues usually seen in traditional Japanese art prints, this work presents an ethereal softness, an almost poetic take on the lotus, a flower deeply embedded in Asian spirituality.
The hand-coloured flower collotypes are more than just visual representations; the intricate details and the subtleness of hand-colouring make this piece a stand-alone gem in the realm of Japanese art prints
Through his Lotus Flower print, Kazumasa extends an invitation to pause, reflect, and appreciate the delicate balance between tradition and innovation.
With this addition, the gallery of top 10 most beautiful Japanese art prints is now complete.
From the waves of Hokusai to the intricate flowers of Kazumasa, these masterpieces prove that art is the universal language of human emotion. Each print, whether rooted in ancient tradition or blossoming in modern innovation, invites us to step closer, look deeper, and feel more
What is Ukiyo-e?
How are Japanese art prints made?
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How can I identify an original Japanese art print?
What is the oldest known Japanese art print?
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There you have it! A deep dive into the captivating world of Japanese art prints, from the iconic Japanese wave print to the subtleties of the Ukiyo-e genre. Whether you're a fan of Hokusai prints or you’ve just discovered this fascinating world, there’s something for everyone to admire.
With this deep dive, you're now well-equipped to appreciate and perhaps even start your own collection of these timeless masterpieces.
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