A Record of the Floating World

Japanese Prints from 1700 to 1900

3 November 2009 - 30 December 2009


In this exhibition, the Baur Foundation, Museum of Far Eastern Art presents an overview of the main stages in the development of the Japanese print from 1700 to 1900. As expressions of the popular urban culture which grew up during the Edo period (1605-1868), Japanese prints focused on the “Floating World” (ukiyo) of entertainment and recreation, in particular the kabuki theater and the courtesans of the pleasure quarter of Yoshiwara. These two themes are represented in the exhibition by portraits of women and actors from such great masters as Suzuki Harunobu (1725-1770), Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806), Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825), and Tôshûsai Sharaku (active 1794-1795). In the 1830s, landscape prints also gained popularity thanks to several well-known series by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), illustrating, among other sights, Mount Fuji and the Tôkaidô road running from Edo to Kyoto. Alongside these designs intended for commercial sale was another form of print, the surimono, privately-issued, luxury editions which served as New Year’s cards or as invitations on special occasions. The exhibition finishes on a series of works from the Meiji period (1868-1912) showing the impact of the wave of modernization which was sweeping the country at that time.