Industrial Revolution & Graphic Reactions. Reflection [Y2: History of Design L2]


This week we learnt about how new fonts are created and the relationship between text and illustration to better convey a message, especially advertisement during Industrial Revolution. Among varies movements, I want to drive into the “pictures of the floating world’.

Ukiyo, the floating world, 浮世

What is the floating world (ukiyo)?  Ukiyo is a term originated from buddhism, refers to  earthly life, “the Sorrowful World” (“an endless cycle of rebirth, life, suffering, death, and rebirth from which Buddhists seek to escape”, During Tokugawa Period (1600-1868) in Japan, its meaning changed, refers to urban lifestyle of meaningless pleasure-seeking, especially  in the entertainment industry. Merchant class were benefited from the rapid economic growth. People seek pleasure from “theater and musical performances, calligraphy and painting, poetry writing and speaking competitions, tea ceremonies, and of course, sexual adventures”. Ukiyo then becomes descriptive term for pictures (artworks) that depicted people seeking pleasure in the entertainment industry.

I didn’t know that the ukiyo-e has such a negative meaning behind, meaningless pleasure-seeking. The most iconic work of ukiyo-e is this:

Katsushika Hokusai, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” ca. 1829-1833

This depicts  powerful waves and  boatman struggling to survive in such a dangerous situation. A beautiful landscape, so different from the other ukiyo-e.

Ukiyo-e, pictures of the floating world, 浮世绘

Toyokuni II, “Ukiyo-e A Tea Party”, early 19th century.

Geisha is depicted in the scene. I like how the clothes are depicted in detail and colourful. The pattern is unique. The wealthiness in urban Japan is totally shown in this artwork.

Ukiyo-e  refers to Japanese woodblock prints. The advance woodblock printing technology is a mass production method that served the increased demand of artwork(especially the merchant class) during the Tokugawa Period. How does the woodblock printing is done?

I appreciate the woodblock printing can be done in such detail and  still accurate. High quality is still maintained even it can be mass produce.

Thank you from reading:)





Leave a Reply