In this impressive study, Gian Carlo Calza examines images of the floating world (ukiyo-e) found in paintings, screens, illustrated books and, above all, the numerous woodblock prints that nineteenth-century French artists were to find so influential. Through six essays and six catalogue sections this book provides a fascinating and thorough introduction to the very best works of this period.
The essays supply detailed background information on the history, techniques and development of ukiyo-e and the plate section has been arranged to reflect the six great themes of the floating world - theatre, tradition, nature, landscape, town life and feminine beauty - developed by the artists to satisfy the demands and tastes of their customers. Within each section, works have been arranged in chronological order and according to the various schools.
These remarkable images illustrate the tastes, habits and passions of the people of Edo: fashionable scenes set in the nightless city of Yoshiwara, festive excursions to admire cherry blossoms or maple leaves, parties in sailing boats and firework displays. A great number are, in fact, precious posters promoting kabuki actors and performances. Almost as theatrical, courtesans and geisha were also an important part of life and art in Edo, and ukiyo-e artists interpreted them as the ultimate symbol of female beauty and elegance.
In addition to illustrating feminine beauty, almost all the artists of the floating world created erotic works (shunga), since their popularity provided an important part of the artists' income. Included here are many great masterpieces, such as Utamaro's exquisite Pillow Book. Ultimately, the art of the floating world not only met the tastes and passions of the new urban classes, but also continued many classical themes from Japanese art and literature.
This most elegant publication presents a comprehensive survey of ukiyo-e artists and their works, providing a fascinating resource for scholars and general readers alike.