Japanese Woodblock Prints


Ukiyo-e & Shin-hanga

Though our main business is of course the framing of customers' artworks, we also always have a selection of ready-framed pictures on display which are for sale. Mostly consisting of Japanese woodblock prints (Ukiyo-e and Shin-hanga), antiquarian prints, 20th century Australian paintings and 21st century Australian works on paper, they can be useful as examples of different types of framing for customers to refer to. The unique items on show are always changing as pieces get sold and replaced so if there's something you're interested in, don't hesitate - it may not be available next time you drop in!

At glebepictureframes we developed an interest in Japanese woodblock prints some years ago after a number of customers brought some in for framing. We are not authorities on this complex artform, but we love the images and the stories that often go with them. Plus, they're frequently ideal subjects for our off-cuts of framing material!

The term "ukiyo" translates roughly as "floating world" and refers to the urban lifestyle of the Tokugawa period (approx 1600 - 1870), especially that of the inhabitants of Edo (Tokyo), whose existence was considered by many to be a transient, fleeting life of meaningless pleasure seeking. Ukiyo-e, or pictures of the floating world, generally depict scenes of the everyday life of ordinary people, and characters such as kabuki actors, geisha and samurai. As the printing process developed throughout the period it became an increasingly more complicated and skilled endeavour, often with up to 12 or so blocks required to make an artwork. The hardwood blocks could be used for hundreds of prints and were repairable or even replaceable when necessary, allowing them to be used for many years. Artists rarely carved their own blocks, production being a collaborative practice between the artist, the carver, the printer and the publisher who financed and distributed the prints.

"Art is making Something from Nothing and selling it!" - Frank Zappa

Interest in Japanese woodblock prints has waxed and waned both in Japan and in the rest of the world over the years. In the West a rise in popularity occured in the early to mid 20th century which lead to a new movement - "shin-hanga" or simply "new prints". Utilising the traditional techniques and old collaborative process, the artists incorporated Western elements such as the effect of light and expressions of mood while depicting both traditional subjects and new ones. The images of landscapes, famous places, beautiful women, birds and flowers appealed to the Western taste for nostalgic and romanticised views of Japan and have enjoyed immense popularity overseas from the 1920's to the present day.

We always have a number of examples of both Ukiyo-e and Shin-hanga in stock unframed, please ask to have a look!

Famous Ukiyo-e artists include: Suzuki HaranobuToyokuni Utagawa, Kitagawa Utamaro, Ando HiroshigeHokusai Katsushika, Kunisada Utagawa, Kuniyoshi Utagawa.

Famous Shin-hanga artists include: Koson Ohara, Hasui Kawase, Hiroshi YoshidaToshi Yoshida, Kawarazaki Shodo, Tajeki Asano, Tsuchiya Koitsu.