York Art Gallery

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A display featuring rarely seen Japanese Ukiyo-e prints alongside much-loved paintings from our collection are on show in a new Spotlight Series at York Art Gallery.

‘Pictures of the Floating World: Japanese Ukiyo-e Prints’  features prints by prominent Ukiyo-e artists such as Utagawa Hiroshige, along with works by those influenced by Japanese art, such as public favourites Albert Moore and Walter Greaves. This unique display highlights the significant impact of Japanese art on the western world and the consequential rise of artistic movements such as Aestheticism and Art Nouveau.

“Ukiyo-e translates as “pictures of the floating world”, referring to the transitory nature of life. Visitors will see delicate prints depicting scenes celebrating everyday life, through themes such as landscape and travel, actors and courtesans, and folk tales.

This show delves into the history of the works, explaining why Japanese art became increasingly influential during the 18th and 19th centuries. With the variety of artwork on display, visitors can see how western artists were inspired by the use of line and colour, and how Japanese artists were influenced by western artists’ use of shading and perspective.

Works on paper are particularly fragile and susceptible to irreversible light damage and fading. So that we can preserve them for longer, we only display works on paper for a maximum of 6 months every few years, and when they are on display, we have to keep light levels low.

The prints currently on display have now been on show for 6 months, so we are swapping them with more Japanese prints from our collection. The exhibition themes will remain much the same, but with different images so visitors will be able to see something new!

From 24 November 2021 we feature prints by Katsushika Hokusai – arguably Japan’s most famous artist. In May 2022 the prints will change again, so visitors will be able to enjoy yet more of York Art Gallery’s Japanese print collection.