The Perfect Spring Fling: A visual stroll through the Ukiyo-e Japanese Woodblock Archive

In celebration of Spring and the lovely cherry blossom trees that seem to be blooming all over town, it seems like the perfect time to share this lush archive of Japanese woodblock prints from the digital archive, Ukiyo-e.

The archive spans three centuries of traditional and contemporary Japanese woodblock prints, organized by time period, artist, and institution. The database is easy to navigate due to large thumbnail images of each print.

By Asano Takeji, 1940

Dorokyo Gorge, by Asano Takeji (1940)

The Ukiyo-e archive maintains a database of over 213,000 prints from 24 different institutions. In addition to this, the site also features an image similarity analysis engine which compares prints of similar content and style. This engine recommends similar or different versions of a print that you might also be interested in. When looking through the archive, if an image has any corresponding similar prints, they show up as recommendations (see screen shot below):

In this window, you can see that the site features a very simple design that clearly labels the artist, date, and collection, and also gives you a selection of similar images. By hitting the "Compare Prints" button, on the lower right hand side of the screen, a specialty image viewer pops up that allows you do a side-by-side comparison of two images.

In this window, you can see that the site features a very simple design that clearly labels the artist, date, and collection, and also gives you a selection of similar images. By hitting the “Compare Prints” button, on the lower right hand side of the screen, a specialty image viewer pops up that allows you do a side-by-side comparison of two images.

The database highlights their depths of metadata, which has been aggregated from various museums, libraries, auction houses, and dealers. Furthermore, the database is searchable by both text and image, making searching for a specific print comparison incredibly easy! Finally, the entire database is available in both Japanese and English, an important detail that contributes to bridging a gap in the scholarship of Japanese Woodblock prints.

When performing a general search, the database is divided chronologically, making categorical separations roughly ever 30 years between Early Ukiyo-e (Early-Mid 1700s), and  Modern and Contemporary prints (1950s to Now). This separation clearly shows the difference and shift in style, subject matter, and technological possibilities. If you can’t be outside in nature this week, take some time to explore these vibrant Japanese woodblock prints!

Mallet of Daikoku, One of the Gods of Good Fortune, and a Rat, 1828 by Yashima Gakutei

Mallet of Daikoku, One of the Gods of Good Fortune, and a Rat, 1828 by Yashima Gakutei

 

 

 

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