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Japanese prints

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Presentation of Japanese prints

Japanese prints are impressions made on plant leaves using engraved wooden boards. They originate from China and were imported to Japan at the beginning of the 13th century. However, they developed from the Edo era (1600-1868) giving rise to a unique artistic movement: ukiyo-e .

How are Japanese prints made?

The creation of a Japanese print takes place in three stages:

  1. The drawing: The artist begins by writing his work down on a sheet of paper.
  2. Engraving: The engraver, who is not the same person, will break down the drawing according to its different colors and begin engraving on the different plates.
  3. The printing press: Finally a third person will take care of inking the drawing on a vegetable leaf using different inks and engraved wooden boards.

We have deliberately omitted a third person who is nevertheless present but who does not directly participate in the creation of the print. This last person is the editor . He will be responsible for ensuring that the creation of the prints goes smoothly by coordinating the work of the designer, engraver and printer. It is also he who is in charge of finding competent talents in their respective fields and putting them under contract.

What are Japanese prints used for?

Japanese prints were originally intended for printing religious texts. They were then used for printing books and ultimately contributed to the development of ukiyo-e art (from 1600).

The prints have constantly reflected through their drawings the economic and social situation of the country. Most of the time they represented the different cultural aspects of Japan such as geishas, ​​samurai, traditional landscapes but also popular animals like carp or cats. This made it possible to convey an important message which is the very soul of ukiyo-e , the fact that everything is ephemeral and changing and that therefore we must enjoy every moment of our life. Literally ukyiyo-e means: image of the floating world.

Thus the prints were initially used as posters, often stuck to posts/pillars, but their main role remained decorative. They were therefore given as gifts to those who could afford to buy them. The last form of so-called “luxury” print called surimono were prints printed in only a few copies which were ordered privately. Only the richest Japanese could obtain them, they could then be used to illustrate a poem or any feat in the life of a nobleman. Japan having experienced a great period of isolation from the outside world, printing methods such as lithography or the printing press did not reach the territory. Japan therefore continued to use prints as a unique means of printing and learned to perfect this art like no other in the world.

Why use Japanese prints as decorative objects?

Prints are above all the reflection of a philosophy and a way of thinking. But they also and above all allow you to decorate a room or a living space and bring a special atmosphere.

Original prints are relatively rare items that can quickly become quite expensive. Up to €40,000 to €50,000 for the original works of “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Hokusai. This is why we prefer to offer you reproductions of original Japanese prints. This makes it possible to drastically reduce the price and overcome the major problems of many prints today, namely the discoloration and aging of the paper which makes the print of lower quality.

You will find in our “Japanese prints” collection a wide range of reproductions of the most beautiful prints that Japan has produced such as the works of Hokusai: “The 36 views of Mount Fuji”.

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