Yoshitoshi and woodblock printing

ImageImage Masterpieces of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, our newest exhibition, truly celebrates the work of this great Japanese master. Yoshitoshi’s woodblock prints are stunning not only for his great imagination, but the skillful creation of his prints through the unique technique of woodblock printing. Using this process, an artist creates a concept drawing for the final piece (seen top right), and works with a variety of artisans to have it reproduced. To properly print a work, generally a wood block is carved for the initial outline (called the “key block”) and each color– this means that for a single print, many blocks may be needed, and the paper must be perfectly aligned each time a new color is applied. The video below gives a good overview of the inking process, and a longer video of the entire process from carving to printing is featured at the end of our exhibition. The exhibition also includes an original key block alongside the impression it creates, and several preparatory drawings– see the top photos for an original drawing alongside the final print!

If you want to learn more about the process and history of woodblock prints, there are several upcoming programs where you can do just that! This Sunday, June 17, artist Kristina Hagman (whose contemporary woodblock print exhibition 36 Views of Mount Rainier is on view in the Contemporary Gallery upstairs) will give a lecture and demonstration of the process at 2 p.m. Next weekend on Saturday, June 23, the curatorial staff will give a special tour of Masterpieces of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, and the following day on the 24th scholar Ken Brown gives an overview of Japanese book and magazine illustrations as featured in two of his books. Make sure to check out our website for more info, and don’t forget–members come for free! ~CM

Top images: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), From the series Biographies of Valiant Drunken Tigers (Keisei suikoden), (Left) Komyo-ajari, (Right) Preparatory Drawing for Komyo-ajari, Japan, 1874, Woodblock print on paper, Loaned by the Ed Fries Collection.


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