You know them when you see them: the iconic Ukiyo-e woodcut prints from Japan, with their distinctive style, colours, and themes. A new exhibition at Vienna’s MAK museum focuses on the work of one master of the genre: Utagawa Kuniyoshi.
- Draws on the MAK’s unique collection of woodblock prints
- Places Kuniyoshi’s work in its cultural, social, and artistic context
- Concurrent with the UKIYOENOW: Tradition and Experiment exhibition
- Runs Oct 26, 2019 – Feb 16, 2020
- Just need a museum entrance ticket to view
- See also: MAK visitor and tickets info
Woodcut prints from Japan
(Life of Nichiren: A Vision of Prayer on the Waves (from 1835). An example of Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s work. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum)
Most people probably aren’t familiar with the term, Ukiyo-e. But they’d recognise the style instantly. Created mainly using woodblock prints in 17th, 18th and 19th century Japan, the portrayal of people, scenes and landscapes uses an iconic look whose influence continues today.
Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861) adopted a central role in the field of Ukiyo-e as the Edo Period of military government drew to a close. And a new exhibition at the MAK Museum showcases the man, his output, his innovations, his legacy, and the artistic and cultural context in which he worked.
For example, Kuniyoshi’s creations mirror those of today’s cartoonists. Both are popular and commercial. And both use imagery as a means of sociopolitical commentary.
The MAK’s own collection of Japanese woodcuts from Kuniyoshi and his contemporaries provides the backbone for the exhibition. This extensive resource also allows curators, Mio Wakita-Elis and Johannes Wieninger, to present themes rarely addressed in an exposition of this kind, such as consideration of historical approaches to collecting art (most of the MAK’s woodcut collection was put together around 1900).
UKIYOENOW: Tradition and Experiment
A second exhibition complements the Kuniyoshi one. UKIYOENOW explores modern approaches to the Ukiyo-e tradition, featuring the works of Masumi Ishikawa (for the first time in Europe) and Andrew Archer.
Both artists apply Ukiyo-e styles to contemporary subjects, such as sport or music, whether through largely traditional production techniques (Ishikawa) or new digital methods (Archer).
Austria and Japan
The timing of the two exhibitions is no coincidence. The friendship between Austria and Japan celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019. Support for the Kuniyoshi exhibition comes from the Japan Foundation cultural institute, and support for the UKIYOENOW exhibition from All Nippon Airways (ANA).
Dates and tickets
The Kuniyoshi exhibition runs from Saturday, October 26th, 2019 to Sunday, February 16th, 2020. No special ticket is required for the exhibition – just get a normal entrance ticket* to the MAK or use a Vienna Pass.
How to get to the Kuniyoshi exhibition
Take a look at the main MAK museum article for travel tips and suggestions.
If you’re interested in Japanese art, then the Weltmuseum Wien has some items on display from its Japan collection, including a model of a Daimyō residence.
Address: Stubenring 5, 1010 Vienna