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"The Dawn of The floating World"
2001-11-24 until 2002-02-17
Royal Academy of Arts
The 'floating world' (ukiyo) was the world of transient pleasure-seeking in Japanese cities, particularly Edo (modern Tokyo) after the shogun's new capital was rebuilt following the great fire of 1657. A new type of stylish imagery - 'pictures of the floating world' (ukiyo-e) - quickly evolved that captured and stimulated the buoyant culturalself-confidence of the 'townsman' (chonin) class of merchants and artisans.
Pioneer artists such as Hishikawa Moronobu, Okumura Masanobu and Torii Kiyonobu developed an iconography which captured the spirit of the daily life and literature of Edo. High-ranked courtesans of the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter and actors of kabuki drama were celebrated in screen and scroll paintings and, increasingly, in woodblock-printed books and brilliantly hand-coloured prints.
Drawn from the unrivalled holdings of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, this exhibition focuses on the early development of ukiyo-e up until the adoption by Suzuki Harunobu of full-colour printing in 1765. Experimentation with increasingly complex printing techniques resulted in the creation of daring and powerful images, all the more striking today on account of their rarity. Most works are being shown for the first time outside Boston, affording the visitor a unique opportunity to rediscover the vigorous, witty, stylish and erotic beginnings of a school of popular art from which would later come Utamaro, Hokusai and Hiroshige.