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A Century of Japanese Prints

I recently visited the St. Louis Art Museum to view an exhibition called A Century of Japanese Prints. It was curated by Rhiannon Paget, an author and curator of Asian art, and presented a collection of modern and contemporary Japanese prints from the 20th and 21st centuries, almost all of which were woodblock prints.

Woodblock printing is created by carving an image into a block of wood and covering it in ink (or sometimes paint) to transfer an image onto paper or fabric. In Asian woodblock printing, watercolors are applied with a brush and the inked motifs are then rubbed onto a dry or moistened paper.

Classic lumbers used in woodblocks are mainly fruit-bearing trees like cherry or pear, which make for detail-rich sketchings. In contrast, linden and poplar are easier to cut but also splinter more easily.

Printing is a time-consuming art form, and woodblock printing is even more so. It takes an incredible amount of skill and craftsmanship to create a woodblock print, and it deserves to be appreciated just as much as any other art form.

Quotations followed by an asterisk* are descriptions given by the St. Louis Art Museum.

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From the Dictionary-4, 1971
Water, 1990
Bell Hill, 1923
Seaside Village, 1965
Sailing Boats––Night, from the series The Seto Inland Sea, 1926
Bartailed Godwits, 1930s
Swallows and Wisteria, 1930s
The Eunuch and the Red Poppy, 1914
Calm Wind, 1937

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