Tracing the development of Japanese prints from the Primitives to Hiroshige, an exhibition of modern reproductions went on display yesterday in Robinson Hall, where it will remain for the rest of the week.
Twenty-five examples cover the whole history of Japanese prints from 1650 to 1850 and include the works of the greatest artists of the period. The prints are being circulated on tour by the American Federation of Arts and were made in the studios of Toyohisa Adachi in Tokyo. These color block prints after the great masters are considered by art critics to be the finest facsimiles approximating the quality of line, age, and color, in old prints, that have come to this country.
Japanese prints are an outstanding phase of Oriental art and have captivated Western imagination for a hundred years. They are the fullest and most characteristic expression ever given to a graphic record of popular Japanese life.
First represented is a work by Moronobu "Lovers in an Autumn Meadow." This artist was responsible for bringing art to the masses and, as shown by the work, dealt entirely in black and white. About 1714 colors were first used, which tended to popularize the prints even more. Working in this period was Masanobu, who shows by "Sukeroku" a great technical advance over his contemporaries.
With the print, "Snow Gorge," the advent into landscape drawing is illustrated. Typical are the mountains and the river which continued to be the main elements of the oriental landscape artists.
By 1765 the artists began to fully master the use of color blocks. Colors were carefully and skillfully blended as shown by "Picking Chrysanthemums" and a much greater delicacy was carired out to an almost extreme degree by Buncho, who emphasized line particularly and gave his figures a very light romantic touch.
The year 1784 brought Kiyonaga who started a new trend in interpreting reality, who made real people and gave the sensation of real life, and about the same time comes Utamaro, the finest colorist of his nation.
Finally Hiroshia is reached, who in the period between 1815 and 1858 became the master of the Japanese landscape school. One of his best works, "White Rain," shows originality of composition and a fine use of atmospheric effects.
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Harvard Today: September 10, 2015