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

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.”
 

 

 

Helen Brown

Google images

“I work directly from the landscape in either lino or woodcut. Working outdoors enables me to capture the line and fluidity of scenes and localities.

My landscapes are landscapes of self-possession and movement. Through their layered and textured forms they express the tectonic flow of the earth, as mountains and valleys rise and fall in an experience of time much more immense than our own.

I spend time in the places my work depicts, returning to them. From the Sussex Downs to the foothills of the Himalayas, my prints are imbued with the emotion of place. Each one of my pieces is given individual life though colour and chine colle (paper overlay) or hand tinting, just as the mood of a scene shifts with light, time and experience.

My work takes shape in the place between landscape and dreamscape. Whether in architectural or animal forms, it connects the experiential world to the imagination, the material to the emotional.

Our thoughts and feelings colour the things we encounter, and they in turn colour us. In my prints I give visual expression to this conversation.”

See page on Art of Illustration

Biography

Helen Brown grew up in Cambridge and did an Art Foundation course there then an art degree at Brighton. She learned screen printing, etching and linocut.

Techniques

While in Brighton she started to focus on linocut because she could do observational prints outdoors :

“I went to Devil’s Dyke, just outside Brighton and cut the block while sitting outside the pub. They gave me free food and loads of people asked what I was doing. The print worked very well, and people bought it. I thought I would follow this path for a while because I enjoyed it, and it worked well with my travelling.”

“I like the stages; you make the block and then there is the never-ending choice of how to print it. I might print the block in ten different colours. I really like chine colle, where I use coloured papers that I have cut up beforehand. This technique I have taken to extremes.”

“I have recently been thinking more about the marks, so I feel very inspired with my work.I made a lot of blocks from my last trip to Guatemala, which I print to have a bright, strong colour blend, like their dyed and woven fabrics. The landscape in Guatemala is quite unreal, so using unrealistic colours would not seem right. That is what is good about printmaking: I can print the blocks and it might look great, or not, but I can easily change the way I print it.”

The  prints are individually made by the artist in tranches of a few prints – the edition is not all printed at once.

See profile in D’Arcy and Vernon-Morris pp223-225

Georg Baselitz

Google images

Baselitz prints Google

Large Head  Tate  combination monoprint and woodcut

Drinker  linocut

Female Nude on a Kitchen Chair   upside down large scratched out monochrome linocut 2021 x 1370 mm

Head  upside down woodcut

Eagle woodcut

Making Art after Auschwitz and Dresden

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From Wikipedia and Tate website

Georg Baselitz (born 23 January 1938) is a German painter. He studied in East Germany, before moving to what was then West Germany.  He is seen as a revolutionary painter as he draws the viewer’s attention to his works by making them think and sparking their interest. The subjects of the paintings don’t seem to be as significant as the work’s visual insight. Throughout his career, Baselitz has varied his style, ranging from layering substances to his style, since the 1990s, which focuses more on lucidity and smooth changes.

Baselitz first encountered art in albums of nineteenth-century pencil drawings in the school library. He also assisted nature photographer Helmut Drechsler on occasional ornithological shoots. At the ages of 14 and 15, he painted portraits, religious subjects, still lifes and landscapes, some in a futuristic style. In 1955, he applied to study at the Kunstakademie in Dresden but was rejected. In 1956 he studied painting under professors Walter Womacka and Herbert Behrens-Hangler, and befriended Peter Graf and Ralf Winkler (later known as A. R. Penck). After two semesters, he was expelled for “sociopolitical immaturity.” In 1957 he successfully applied for a place at West Berlin’s Hochschule der Künste and continued his studies in Professor Hann Trier’s class, a creative environment largely dominated by the gestural abstraction of Tachism and Art Informel, affecting a certain orientation towards Paris amongst both staff and students. He immersed himself in the theories of Ernst Wilhelm Nay, Wassily Kandinskyand Kasimir Malevich. During this time he became friends with Eugen Schönebeck and Benjamin Katz. Andreas Franzke gives his primary artistic influences at this time as Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston. Conversely, he argues that Baselitz found the work of Barnett Newman inaccessible, as well as that of Mark Rothko.

Even in his early work of the late 1950s and early 1960s Baselitz rebelled against the dominance of abstract painting.. The imagery in these early works, symbolic of the body and its organs and of sexual obsessions, borders on the traumatic.

From the mid 1960s he concentrated on several figure types, sometimes portrayed as scarred or wounded but presented in a stylised form as modern heroes, as people from a mythical land beyond our questionable civilisation.

His career was boosted in the 1960s after police took action against one of his paintings, (Die große Nacht im Eimer), because of its provocative, offending sexual nature.

Baselitz spent the spring of 1964 at Schloß Wolfsburg and produced his first etchings in the printing shop there, which were exhibited later that year. He produced a number of large-format pictures eg the “Foresters”/ “Waldarbeiter” pictures. In 1969, using Wermsdorfer Wald by Louis-Ferdinand von Rayski as a model, he paints his first picture to feature an inverted motif, “The Wood On Its Head”/ “Der Wald auf dem Kopf.”

In the 1970s, Baselitz was part of a group of Neo-Expressionist German artists, occasionally identified as “Neue Wilden,” focusing on deformation, the power of subject and the vibrancy of the colors. He became famous for his upside-down images, seeing in this method the possibility of stressing the realisation of the motif as a painted surface and the form as his primary concern.

After moving in 1975 to Derneburg, near Hildesheim, Baselitz served as professor of painting at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Karlsruhe (1977–82) and at the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste in West Berlin (1983–8). Although he continued to present the medium itself as his primary vehicle of expression, in the 1980s he again gave greater weight to subject-matter.

In 1976, Baselitz set up an additional studio in Florence, which he used until 1981. In 1977, he began working on large-format linocuts.  From 1978 until 1980, he worked on diptychs using the tempera painting technique (combinations of motifs), multipart pictures (series of motifs), and large-format individual works such as “The Corn Gleaner”/ “Die Ährenleserin,” “Woman Clearing Away Rubble”/ “Trümmerfrau,” “Eagle”/ “Adler” and “Boy Reading”/ “Der lesende Knabe.” The works become more abstract, with scriptural elements predominating.

In 1979 Baselitz began work on his first monumental sculptures in wood, for which he employed an elemental and deliberately unpolished technique that gave his figures and heads an archetypal forcefulness. Having worked for many years against the mainstream of contemporary art, by the 1980s he had established an international reputation through his influence on the young German Neo-Expressionist painters referred to in Germany as the ‘Neue Wilden

Baselitz currently lives and works near Munich and in Imperia. He recently sold his castle in Derneburg.

His work was exhibited in London, at the Royal Academy of Arts in late 2007, and in the White Cube gallery in 2009.