New York State Library
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Japanese Ukiyo-e Prints

left display case

August 2016

The New York State Library's public floor exhibit for August features plates from a stacks treasure titled Selected Masterpieces of Ukiyo-e Prints (Tokyo: Adachi Institute of Woodcut Prints, 1956).


center display case

Ukiyo-e (which translates as "pictures of the floating world") was a style of art that flourished in Japan from the 17th through the 19th centuries. It depicted classical topics as well as modern tastes, and was popular with the masses as well as the elite. Early works tend to be monochromatic and simplistic in nature, but the genre became known for its complex designs and vibrant coloration as realized through the delicate collaboration between publisher, artist, woodblock carver, and printer.


right display case

The plates were re-cut and reprinted by hand, and are housed in an oversized navy-blue portfolio with marbled inside covers, folding flaps, and string ties. Laid in is an English-language text volume in wrappers and glassine cover that gives a brief history of Ukiyo-e and provides detailed notes on the 24 prints, all of which are on display.

More images from this exhibit will be posted to our Instagram account throughout August.

Catalog record for Selected Masterpieces of Ukiyo-e Prints


Japanese print showing two women in kimonos Japanese print of man

Exhibit curated by Shawn Purcell

Last Updated: November 2, 2021