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Japanese Woodblock Prints

The Japanese woodblock print is a phenomenon with no Western equivalent. Breathtaking landscapes exist alongside blush-inducing erotica, ghosts and demons torment the living, and sumo wrestlers and kabuki actors are rock stars. This condensed edition revisits the most exceptional prints from 1680–1938, presenting the finest impressions in...

From Edouard Manet’s portrait of naturalist writer Émile Zola sitting among his Japanese art finds to Van Gogh’s meticulous copies of the Hiroshige prints he devotedly collected, 19th-century pioneers of European modernism made no secret of their love of Japanese art. In all its sensuality, freedom, and effervescence, the woodblock print is single-handedly credited with the wave of japonaiserie that first enthralled France and, later, all of Europe—but often remains misunderstood as an “exotic” artifact that helped inspire Western creativity.

The fact is that the Japanese woodblock print is a phenomenon of which there exists no Western equivalent. Some of the most disruptive ideas in modern art—including, as Karl Marx put it, that “all that is solid melts into air”—were invented in Japan in the 1700s and expressed like never before in the designs of such masters as Hokusai, Utamaro, and Hiroshige in the early 19th century. Hardcover, 512 pages.

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