Hiroshige and Hokusai: Japanese woodblock prints

The woodblock prints of Hiroshige and Hokusai were the source for my work in Project 2.1: Formal Abstracts: Japanese landscape.

Ukiyo-e

In-depth video on history and development of techniques of Japanese woodcut from monochrome through painted monochrome prints to multiblock printing. It looks at its influence on Western artists like Van Gogh and Monet following the exhibition of Japanese art for the first time at the Paris Exhibition of 1867. It also looks at the modern day revival of ukiyo-e prints as paintings on shops in Tokyo regeneration.

Japanese woodblock prints with Paul Binnie

Lecture on background and underlying ideas in Japanese printing techniques.

Japanese woodblock printing History Ukiyo-e Jose Ortega

History of Japanese printing and way it spread and related to earlier Chinese and Buddhist prints.

Technique (from Wikipedia)

The technique for printing texts and images was generally similar. The obvious differences were the volume produced when working with texts (many pages for a single work), and the complexity of multiple colours in some images. Images in books were almost always in monochrome (black ink only), and for a time art prints were likewise monochrome or done in only two or three colours.

The text or image was first drawn onto washi (Japanese paper), then glued face-down onto a plank of wood, usually cherry. Wood was then cut away, based on the drawing outlines. A small wooden hard object called a baren was used to press or burnish the paper against the inked woodblock to apply the ink to the paper. Although this may have been done purely by hand at first, complex wooden mechanisms were soon invented and adopted to help hold the woodblock perfectly still and apply proper pressure in the printing process. This was especially helpful with the introduction of multiple colours that had to be applied with precision over previous ink layers.

While, again, text was nearly always monochrome, as were images in books, the growth of the popularity of ukiyo-e brought with it demand for ever increasing numbers of colors and complexity of techniques. The stages of this development follow:

  • Sumizuri-e (墨摺り絵?, “ink printed pictures”)—monochrome printing using only black ink
  • Benizuri-e (紅摺り絵?, “crimson printed pictures”)—red ink details or highlights added by hand after the printing process;green was sometimes used as well
  • Tan-e (丹絵?)—orange highlights using a red pigment called tan
  • Aizuri-e (藍摺り絵?, “indigo printed pictures”), Murasaki-e (紫絵?, “purple pictures”), and other styles in which a single color was used in addition to, or instead of, black ink
  • Urushi-e (漆絵?)—a method that thickened the ink with glue, emboldening the image. Printers often used gold, mica, and other substances to enhance the image further. Urushi-e can also refer to paintings using lacquer instead of paint. Lacquer was rarely, if ever, used on prints.
  • Nishiki-e (錦絵?, “brocade pictures”)—a method of using multiple blocks for separate portions of the image, using a number of colors to achieve complex and detailed images. A separate block was carved to apply only the part of the image designated for a single color. Registration marks called kentō (見当) were used to ensure correspondence between the application of each block.

Contemporary Japanese woodblock

Katsutoshi Yuasa

Keizaburo Matsuzaki

Ross Loveday

website: http://www.rossloveday.com/prints.html

‘The fine line which separates figuration and abstraction interests me; time, place , weather and light alongside gesture, glimpse and memory.

The subjects are only the starting points- sometimes small insignificant details or texture triggers a complete piece.’

Drpoint and Carborundum
Lifelines. Monoprint and Drypoint
North Bank Monoprint and drypoint

Working process

He uses drypoint with monoprint and/or carborundum on a metal plate.

 

Iona Howard

http://www.ionahoward.com/

She has a studio in Cottenham in the Cambridgeshire Fens.

My prints explore the notion of time and landscape through a contemplative exploration of surface. The sources of my prints can come from working in the open air or expressing landscape filtered through memory…I am captivated by the ancient semi-natural landscapes typical of my native west Cornwall where a blurred line exists between nature and human activity. Recent works of the Fens focus on the meeting point of land, horizon and sky, their flatness altering the perception of distance. ‘

From interview with Iona in Cambridge 4th Feb 2017:

Her landscapes have a strong geometric structure of contrasting colours and textures. She mainly uses a combination of carborundum, drypoint and monoprint techniques. A mix of a binder (polyurethane varnish) and carborundum grit is applied onto the surface of a plate and sealed with the same varnish. The binder has to withstand a lot of working but should not be so thick as to hide the grit texture of the carborundum. To contrast the carborundum, drypoint is added to produce an incised line. The plate is then inked up using etching ink and copperplate oil with a brush or roller.

Originally she worked in black and white. Now she also works in colour from memory and notes. Colour is built up by layering carborundum plates or more often overlaid though monoprint. Dry ink can be added as a third pass. Ink can be laid on thickly for more embossing. She can use the same base plate but with different seasons. Editions of 40. Or 10-15. She gets commissions where people ask for specific colours.

The technique allows working directly in the landscape to paint on the carborundum and the drypoint plates, and large images can be produced. She prints  on thick Somerset paper, printing to the edge of the paper to “leave the composition as unconstrained as the landscapes from which I seek inspiration”. She mounts with  nonreflective glass.

 

Linocut Inspiration

Linoleum was invented in the early 1860s and first used for printing in 1890 in Germany for the manufacture of wallpaper. By the early 20th century it had been popularized for artists’ prints. Linocut gained particular favour in poorer cultures that were less inhibited by a tradition of fine printing. In revolutionary Russia important linocuts were produced from about 1918. In Canada in the 1920s and 1930s the linocut was more common than the woodcut.

Linocut artists have been influenced by earlier woodcut traditions, including Japanese woodcut traditions and and also geometric forms and abstraction from African and Oceanic art. Linocut artists like the Grosvenor School and Lyubov Popova (see below) have also been influence by major art movements of the twentieth century, particularly cubism, futurism and constructivism. The possibility for dynamic mark-making and bold shapes with simplified colour make lino very well suited for this type of design.

Linocut artists used many of the techniques earlier developed for woodcut – both markmaking and use of tone and structure. But they also developed new directions with Picasso’s use of the reduction linocut (that can also be done with any other surface like wood). Linocut artists became particularly interested in dynamic shapes and use of colour influenced by Futurism.

Later prejudice grew up against linoleum block printing, as suitable only for children, amateurs and the uncultured. The linocut’s popularity also fell with the rise of commercial collaboration between printmaker and publisher, which encouraged more technically complex media.

But recently there has been a resurgence of interest in linocut as an art form. It is a key part of the many printmaking courses as an easier introduction to relief printing than woodcut. It has therefore become widely used for things like greetings cards. But there are also contemporary linocut artists doing innovative work – including very large pieces that exploit its potential for being cut into smaller blocks and because of its relatively light weight. There has been development of a wide range surface etching and texturing techniques using different tools.

Nineteenth and twentieth centuries

Franz Ciceck

An Austrian artist and teacher popularised the material for artists’ prints. He recognised the medium’s potential to instruct children in colour and design: it was cheap, easily worked with simple tools, adaptable to water-based inks, and versatile. Cižek toured Europe and North America with examples by his pupils and influenced art education worldwide.

German Expressionists  1905-1920s

The first major artist to adopt linocut as a medium was Erich Heckel, and his earliest linocut is dated 1903. In his Frog Queen (1905) linoleum’s lack of grain bias is evident in the perpendicular clusters of gouge strokes.

Artists from Die Brucke regularly used linocut instead of woodcut from 1905 to 1920s. These focused on bold shapes and expressive distortion in monochrome prints. The use of lino was ideal for this, although the fine lines and use of woodgrain etxture in some of the woodcuts was not possible.

Click here for overview of German Expressionist woodcuts

Google images for Expressionist linocuts

Google images for Erich Heckel linocuts

This German Expressionist tradition has been continued by modern artists like Georg Baselitz who produces very large linocuts and combination prints often on subjects of political protest.

Click here for overview of the work of Georg Baselitz

Matisse

Matisse executed 70 linocuts between 1938 and 1952. These are similar in both style and subject matter to his black and white monoprints of figures. They are executed on lino in a fluent white-line technique, taking evident advantage of the smooth passage of the knife through the soft material and the variation in expressive line that can be achieved.

Click here for overview of Matisse’s work as printmaker and artist

Click here for Google images of Matisse linocuts

Picasso

Picasso used linoleum for popular posters in the early 1950s. In 1959 he began a series of innovative colour linocuts, developing the reduction print technique. He developed a method of printing in different colours progressive states cut on a single block, so that the finished print comprises layered impressions of all the states.

Click here for overview of Picasso’s work as printmaker and artist

Click here for Google images of Picasso linocuts

Lyubov’ Popova

Lyubov Popova was a Russian avant-garde and ‘new woman’ artist (Cubist, Suprematist and Constructivist) painter and designer. She produced a number of linocuts in constructivist style.

Click here of overview of Popova’s work

Click here for Google images of Popova’s linocuts

Grosvenor School

Gaudier Brzewska

Edward Wadsworth

Claude Flight (1881–1955)

The most important British advocate of the linocut. He taught linocut from 1925 at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London and emphasized its accessibility to the proletariat. His images are very dynamic with strong curvature distortion.

Click here for overview of Flight’s work

Click here for Google images of Flight’s linocuts

Sybil Andrews

Click here for overview of Andrews’ work

Click here for Google images of Andrews’ linocuts

Lil Tschudi

Click here for overview of Tschudi’s work

Click here for Google images of Tschudi’s linocuts

Cyril Power

Click here for overview of Power’s work

Click here for Google images of Power’s linocuts

The work of the Grosvenor School has also influenced some contemporary linocut artists like the Canadian Gary Ratushniak who was trained by Sybil Andrews draws also on native America traditions.

Click here for overview of work of Gary Ratushniak

Click here for Google images of Ratushniak’s linocuts

Edward Bawden

Edward Bawden is another English artist and illustrator who often worked in watercolour, but also produced many linocuts. His work is more figurative and many of his paintings are from his experience as war artist in the Second World War.

Click here for overview of Bawden’s work

Click here for Google images of Bawden’s linocuts

US Civil Rights Movement

Linocuts were very popular as effective and cheap media for mass communication by African American artists involved in the American Civil Rights movement. Influenced by both African and Mexican art they depicted images of racial and sexual issues. Key proponents were:

Margaret Borroughs

Elizabeth Catlett

Contemporary linocut

Some of the sources I have looked at (in alphabetical order). For images and more detailed discussion see Logbook 2: Linocut at page references given below.

Richard Bosman

Emma Bradford

Helen Brown

Lynda Burke

Borge Carlson

Angela Cavaglieri

Katarzyna Cyganic

Otto Feil

Jess Freeman

Christine Koch

Rudolf Koch

Hans Larsen

Albert Masri

Ladislav Rusek

Richard Bosman

Richard Bosman (B 1944) is an Australian artist and printmaker who has produced woodcuts and linocuts since 1980s.

Google images for Richard Bosman linocut

 

Many of his paintings and prints are concerned with tragedies in dark urban settings, on rough seas, and in eerily quiet woods.  They have been influenced by expressionist printmakers like Edvard Munch and Emil Nolde. Also Japanese printmakers like Hokusai.

Some of his work is very experimental. He printed Smokers (1982) with his wife in an edition of two rolls of paper towels.

Born in India, raised in Australia, and the son of a merchant sea captain, Bosman has repeatedly returned to the setting of the sea. In an exhibition “Death and the Sea” at Owen James Gallery he depicts different aspects of the South Pacific sea: volcanoes, moonlit voyages and farewells, small rowboats fighting gigantic waves – “mankind is fickle, life is fleeting, and that the ocean remains unconcerned with our plight”.
“There is a cinematic beauty to these works by Bosman.  We sometimes feel as though we are looking at a film strip stopped in time, somewhere between cause and horrible effect.  Works such as Volcano and Fog Bank are subtle in their ability to show the progress of time, but there are visual gaps in it, and it is in these gaps that much of the intrigue lies.  In Night Sky the effect is almost imperceptible.  Here, only the stars move, and in this movement we find we are disoriented. Both South Seas Kiss and Mutiny share the short-lived joy of shore-leave, as a captain is first enraptured by an island girl only to meet his demise once he turns his back.”
 

 

 

Angela Cavalieri

Angela Cavalieri produces very large art linocuts based on text and visual storytelling. These have a very dynamic rhythm with swirls of words and architectural forms.

Angela Cavalieri’s website: http://www.angelacavalieri.com

Google for her large linocut prints

Angela Cavalieri: large scale linocut printmaking process for Guerra e Amore

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Guerra e Amore is based on music of Claudio Monteverde and the architectural drawings and prints of Giovanni Battista Piranesi

She does extensive visual research to develop the basic concept.

She then works directly on the linocut  –  for Guerra e Amore she spent 2 months drawing, cutting and redrawing using ink, charcoal and chalk. Text has to be back to front and has to be drawn and redrawn many times to get the overall effect.

She then cuts the large block into different coloured block pieces and draws on registration marks on a large under-paper.

She handprints onto rolled canvas. Needs assistance eg 7 people for printing. Issues in consistent inking – takes about an hour and has to be done before dries out. Burnishes and hand prints. The whole process takes takes about 6 hours.

Touches up a bit with a hand brush. Paints in background with oil paint. Then hangs.

Gary Ratushniak

Gary Ratushniak on the Art of Linocut

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Gary Ratushniak’s Printmaking Influences

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A Canadian printmaker who produces linocuts inspired by Native American art and Sybil Andrews of the UK Grosvenor school.

He introduces tone in his linocuts by selectively wiping off the ink.

Toko Shinoda

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Spanish slideshow of her work

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Toko Shinoda Exhibit by The Tolman Collection, Tokyo at Musee Kikuchi

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Google images

Toko Shinoda (篠田 桃紅 Shinoda Tōkō?, born March 28, 1913) is a Japanese artist working with sumi ink paintings and lithograph prints. Her art merges traditional calligraphy with modern abstract expression. She says she prefers her paintings and original drawings, because sumi ink presents unlimited colour spectrum. In printmaking, Shinoda uses lithograph as her medium. Unlike woodcut that requires chisel, or etching that requires acid, lithograph allows Shinoda to work directly and spontaneously on the plate with her fluid brushstroke. Shinoda’s strokes are meant to suggest images and vitality of nature. She says, “Certain forms float up in my mind’s eye. Aromas, a blowing breeze, a rain-drenched gust of wind…the air in motion, my heart in motion. I try to capture these vague, evanescent images of the instant and put them into vivid form.” Shinoda’s print editions are small, usually ranging from twelve to fifty-five, and after each edition has been pulled, she often adds a stroke or two of sumi color by hand to each print.

Life

Shinoda was born in Manchuria where her father managed a tobacco factory. Two years later, her family returned to Japan. Influenced by her father’s love of sumi ink painting, calligraphy and Chinese poetry, Shinoda practiced calligraphy since she was six.

Shinoda traveled the United States from 1956 to 1958. During this time her works were bought by Charles Laughton and John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Shinoda also became involved in the abstract expressionist movement of the time.

A 1983 interview in Timemagazine noted that “her trail-blazing accomplishments are analogous to Picasso’s”. Shinoda’s works had been exhibited in the Hague National Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, Cincinnati Art Museum and other leading museums in the world.

She turned 100 in March 2013.

Books on her work

  • Takashina, Shuji. Okada, Shinoda, and Tsukata: Three Pioneers of Abstract Painting in 20th Century Japan. Washington: Phillips Collection, c1979.
  • Tolman, Mary and Tolman, Norman. Toko Shinoda: A New Appreciation. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E Tuttle Company, 1993.