Featuring original woodblock prints from Bristol Museum and Art Gallery's collection, this exhibition explores the sophisticated urban culture of Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries, from fashion and day trips to geisha and the kabuki theatre.
This is the second exhibition in the Masters of Japanese Prints series.
By the 18th century, Japan’s capital, Edo (today’s Tokyo), was the largest city in the world with over a million inhabitants. Many of its merchants and craftspeople were comfortably off and they could afford fine fashion and trips to tea houses, restaurants and the kabuki theatre. The very wealthiest men were able to visit elegant geisha(professional entertainers) and courtesans (high class prostitutes) in the city’s pleasure quarters.
These city entertainments fuelled the market for woodblock prints. Theatre fans were eager to buy programmes for the season ahead and likenesses of their favourite actors. Visitors to the city might take home souvenirs of key landmarks such as bridges, rivers and temples or images of famous beauties, for the price of a bowl of noodles.
This exhibition will explore how artists and craftspeople developed fine multi-colour prints with increasingly sophisticated effects to respond to this demand whilst abiding by regulations laid down by the Shogunate, Japan’s military dictatorship.
The rare and colourful prints in the collection, specially conserved and mounted for the exhibition, allow us glimpses into Japanese urban life, both elegant and earthy, over 250 years ago.
Included in the display will be a set of prints showing the process of colour printing of a print by Tōshῡsai Sharaku (active 1794-1795). This print is new addition to our collection from a traditional woodblock print workshop in Tokyo with funding from the Friends of Bristol Art Gallery.
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery has a collection of some 500 ‘floating world pictures’ (ukiyo-e) which celebrate the pleasures of life in Japan. This collection ranks in the top five regional UK collections.
Lunchtime talks: Pleasures of the floating world
Dip into the lives of citydwellers in the tea houses, theatres and pleasure quarters of Edo Japan with one of our lunchtime talks. Designed to fit around your lunch hour, our lunchtime talks explore a selection of treasures from our exhibitions and collections.
Masters of Japanese Prints: Life in the City explores the sophisticated urban culture of Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries, from fashion and day trips to geisha and the kabuki theatre.
Speaker: Kate Newnham, Eastern Art curator
This talk will take place on the following days:
Friday 8 March, 1.15pm – 1.45pm
Saturday 30 March, 1.15pm – 1.45pm
Thursday 9 May, 1.15pm – 1.45pm
Map & Directions
Tel: +44 (0)117 922 3571
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