History of Japanese Prints
Japanese woodblock print is an art form which highlight the flowing, curved outlines, simplistic forms as well as their detailing of flat areas through the carved part(Fiorillo). The art of Japanese woodblock prints was famous through the early years of Japan. Many prints were produced through many different types of artists. Woodblock prints were brought into Japan in the 8th century as a religious text. Buddhists brought these prints while traveling from China, and also brought the printing method itself (Fiorillo). The first few prints are made with a single color using only Sumi ink.
| |By Hiroshige-Image credited to and permission granted by Jim Breen
Later, the early years of the color print were made with a single block using black ink by the hands of a worker in a print shop. At the beginning of mid- 1760s, the woodblock prints were sold commercially. The illustrations included themes that are classical as well as contemporary. Some themes included literary scenes, lives of celebrities, landscapes and women (Fiorillo).
As the old method of the prints began to fade, the new method shows up. When cutting on a wood, the old method cuts is deeper than the ones that are made today (Fiorillo). The present days pieces allow much greater details and more shallow (Fiorillo). Woodblock prints were produced most in Osaka, Kyoto, and Edo, which is Tokyo (Fiorillo).
The Making of the Japanese prints
Japanese prints are made through a process of four different persons. They are: the artist, the carver, the printer, and the publisher. The artist usually joined a painting school at the age of fourteen and remained with his master for another fours years (Artelino). The principle of this teamwork was also the practice in the early Europeans printmaking (Artelino).
| |By Hokusai-Image credited to and permission granted by Jim Breen
The print started out with the artist making an outline design on a thin, transparent paper. The paper was muffle by the carver and set it facing down on a cherry wooden block. They used cherry woods because it is fine-grained and soft enough to allow cutting (artelino). The carver carved around the line, then cleared the wood, leaving the lines to make a ‘key block’ (Cawthrone). Also, the carver cut the most delicate lines, such as the nose or a face outline in one continuous move (Cawthrone). When the carver finished with the carving, the printer comes and rubbed it with ink. Then, the printer mixed the colors together (Cawthrone). The printer work extremely careful to adjust the colors into the lines. The publisher conceived and commissioned the work, and coordinated the teams (Cawthrone).
When the artist applies the color, they were made from vegetables dyes. The violets and the pink fade to buffs and gray when exposed to the light (Cawthrone). However, vegetables dyes were replaced by aniline dyes (Artelino). Aniline colors preserve freshness better, but some tends to run out. This is a defect that decreases the values of Japanese prints.