Japanese Art Prints From The Edo Period At Gosport Gallery

By Narelle Doe | 09 July 2007
Japanese illustration of men fighting against a snowy background

Courtesy Gosport Gallery

A new exhibition in Gosport will bring the historic world of Edo period Japan to life through a series of captivating prints from Japanese print masters.

Japan: A Floating World in Print runs from July 14 to September 1 2007 and is a rare opportunity to see the work of four of the main masters of Ukiyo-e prints displayed together in Hampshire for the first time.

This chapter of Japanese history with Samurai, great castles and powerful lords, is one familiar to many of us through literature such as Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, Lain Hearn’s Across the Nightingale Floor, set in feudal Japan, or the epic works of prominent Japanese film director, producer and screenwriter, Akira Kurosawa.

Two Japanese men in traditional costume with one kneeling down

Courtesy Gosport Gallery

Ukiyo-e, meaning ‘pictures of the floating world’, portrayed the lives and leisure time of ordinary people. Ukiyo-e prints were affordable because they could be mass produced and were aimed at townsmen who could not afford original paintings. Stylistic, bold and rich in colour, these prints provide an evocative glimpse into Japan’s cultural past.

Katsushika Hokusai, considered to be one of the most outstanding figures of the Ukiyo-e, placed the common man into his woodblocks rather than scenes of historic legends.

Visitors will have the chance to see Hokusai’s famous The Great Wave off Kanagawa, reproduced on countless postcards and t-shirts, featured on the book cover of Claude Debussy’s The Sea, and even providing the inspiration for the logo of sports brand Quiksilver.

Illustration of Japanese warrior with background Japanese script

Courtesy Gosport Gallery

Other artists from the Edo period, also known as the beginning of the early modern period of Japan, include Kitagawa Utamaro, famous for his masterfully composed studies of women, and the last great figure of Ukiyo-e, Ando Hiroshige, who transformed everyday landscapes into lyrical scenes that made him even more successful than his contemporary, Hokusai.

The exhibition will also feature prints of famous warriors and Kabuki actors of the period including work by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Free events will accompany the exhibition: Idle hands will be kept busy with an Origami Workshop on July 24, 10am to 12pm; 1pm to 3pm. Led by origami expert Steve Biddle, the workshop is suitable for ages seven and above. Please book in advance.

For a flavour of Japan for the whole family, Floating World Activities is on August 7, 10am to 3pm.

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