I have always been a great fan of Japanese woodblock print artists. I find the woodblock print artists t to be amazing in how they perfected the woodblock print techniques.
The Japanese woodblock prints had many advantages, and that it was beneficial technology for its day. The more the Japanese publishers began to print woodblock art, the easier it became to print more complicated and intricate designs. They were then able to sell this duplicated art to the masses.
The Japanese had an advantage in how they used and produced the woodblock prints, but this also helped them contribute to Japanese art for years to come.
Useful Print Technology
Japanese woodblock printing helped change the way printing was done. For its time, woodblock printing as perfected by the Japanese was an extremely useful technology. The woodblock printing helped change the way images, designs and words would be printed on paper.
Japan did not invent woodblock printing; woodblock printing was invented in China in 7 BC or earlier. But we can say that the Japanese woodblock print artists helped refine and perfect this art form.
For a long time in many parts of the world, woodblocks were how printing was done. I remember as a small child going to my father’s office and later to his college where he taught printing. His workshop would have all these metal types in wooden boxes; the medal types were in many ways the same or similar technology as the woodblock prints that he used in printing.
Woodblock printing became such an important part of Japanese culture that this type of art is even celebrated in Japan today. Many collectors and others are still collecting woodblock prints; there are many of these woodblock prints on display in major museums around the world.
Woodblock printing came to define and influence Japanese art.
Easy to Print
As the Japanese began to refine the art of woodblock printing, it became easier for them to print more complicated designs, images, and other things. This is because woodblock printing used the technology of carving a block of wood which was then painted with ink and then pressed against the paper.
This technique of carving the image, applying ink, and then pressing the ink against the paper allowed the design to be printed. As the technique developed, different colors would have different blocks of ink.
All of this became easier for the Japanese printers as they began to refine and perfect this art form. More colors and intricate designs started to emerge on the woodblock prints. As long as the woodblock survived, the artwork could be reproduced using this method of printing.
Duplication of Art
One of the great things about Japanese woodblock printing was that it allowed for the duplication of the art. For the 18th century, this was a forward way of using and thinking about art – art that could be duplicated and sold to the masses.
This ability to duplicate the art helped to set up new industries in Japan. The artist who did the actual art, the woodblock carvers who carved the blocks, and finally the printer who would print the actual artwork.
Once the art was printed and distributed, Japanese merchants sprung up who sold the art to consumers. Most of the prints were single sheets that were mass-produced and sold by these street merchants for pennies.
It was not just art prints that were duplicated, but this also included some useful things as a calendar.
The ability to duplicate the woodblock prints allowed for the art to be seen by many people, and so, of course, fans started to arise—people who loved and appreciated one artist over another or one artistic subject matter over another.
Being able to duplicate art when most of the art was only one original piece of art was very forward-thinking. In Europe, at the time, most of the art was original oil paintings that were painted for one person, usually the wealthy, and were only enjoyed by a very select few.
Art For Masses
Woodblock prints became art for the masses. Many Japanese were able to afford or at least see the woodblock prints that sold around Japan.
As the Japanese became able to afford more types of woodblock print, the government, in an attempt to try to control the merchant class, would periodically issue an edict or decree restricting the size, themes, and materials of the prints.
The government did not want to see prints that they considered immoral or political subversive in nature. Naturally, these kinds of restrictions would add more allure to these prints.
The government decrees did not stop the artist and their woodblock prints as the artists, woodblock carvers, printers, and merchants would find a way to work around them and continue selling and producing woodblock prints.
The Japanese had an advantage in how they could produce the prints; these artists also helped contribute to the technology of the day.
The Japanese woodblock prints are found in major and minor museums all around the world. Artists like Vincent Van Gogh were fascinated by the Japanese woodblock print technique; it can be said that the Japanese woodblock print technique reached and affected art in Europe.
At Anita Louise Art, #ArtThatMakesYouSmile we love Japanese woodblock prints. We have used them a lot in our inspiration. If you are interested in my art, you can find out more by clicking here. If you are interested in what inspires me and my paintings, you can discover more by clicking here.
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You can find out more by reading our blog post The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Japanese Artist Hokusai (1790-1849) by clicking here.
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A Japanese woodblock print is, as the name implies, a print that is made by using carved woodblock and applying ink on the woodblocks to print a design on paper. The Japanese woodblock artists use the woodblocks to print artistic prints and even books. Artists have used the woodblock print technique in Japan for hundreds of years.