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Japanese Woodblocks During Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars

  • Date Submitted: 10/28/2010 11:18 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 37.9 
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Woodblock prints: arts or mass media?
The art of woodblock printmaking originated in China in 6th century and slowly spread over the world. Initially developed to reproduce already existing paintings, being introduced to Japan around 17th century woodblock prints represented artworks in themselves. The period of isolation sparked demand for amusement and dreams and woodblock prints successfully fit into this role depicting images from kabuki theater, pictures of actors, courtesans and sumo wrestlers (Dower, Throwing Off Asia II, 2008). The popularity of the prints helped them to achieve level of perfection and artistry, while staying cheap and mass source of art. (Wanczura, 2007)
After the Meiji Restoration, the woodblock prints survived, but their popularity started to decline due to appearance of alternative arts and ways of imaginary communication.   However, the prints began to bear another function of capturing and informing the society about rapid changes and modernization of that period. The Sino-Japanese war caused another surge in interest to woodblock prints and at that period, ukiyo-e became illustrated news sources rather than merely pieces of art. It was a very special genre, and most of the woodblock prints artists contributed to the pool of war images (Wanczura, Japanese Woodblock Prints, 2007).
The woodblock prints from the Sino-Japanese war were a primary medium of imaginary news from the war (before widespread of photography). This medium, however, was severely biased to convey certain messages about Chinese people and Japanese perspectives, interests and goals to Japanese audience. Thereby, in the end of 19th and beginning of 20th centuries, the art of woodblock printing became a medium of conveying messages just like written text.
During the Russo-Japanese war however, photography was freely available and became widely used to cover war events. As a result, much less of woodblocks from that period are available, but on the other side, it...


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