Masterworks of Ukiyo-e: The Decadents


“Admittedly, one does not need to look far in [the work of Kunisada, Kuniyoshi and Eisen] for signs of the fate soon to overcome the ukiyo-e: a certain artistic lifelessness combined at times with a contorted, almost violent quality, a preoccupation with clever composition for its own sake, and an interest in novel, peripheral effects in both subject matter and technique.”

“Thus when feudal barriers began to break down and artists, engravers and printers found themselves catering to an even wider public extending beyond the confines of Edo, a decline in standards inevitably set in.”

“[U]kiyo-e was suddenly faced with a formidable set of rivals–in the printing techniques newly introduced from the West, in photography, and in new mass media as represented by the first true newspapers.”

“[T]he same period was the age of transition from the kibyoshi, popular novelettes with copious illustrations, to the gokanbon (or gokan), which were not so much illustrated stories as stories in pictures with the dialogue or text relegated to whatever blank spaces happened to be left.”

“[T]owards the end of the Bunsei era, one notes a prevalence of the type of pose–characteristic, one might say, of the bijin-ga as a whole during its last years–that has been described in various disparaging terms such as “bull-necked” or “hunch-backed.”

some quotes I found informative from the Decadents volume of the Masterworks of Ukiyo-e series

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