Great Wave Japanese Prints A002255 Hero

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), Under the Wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave) (detail), from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, ca. 1830–1832. Color woodcut, 9 13⁄16 x 14 ½ in. (25 x 36.9 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund, 1969.32.6. Photograph by Randy Dodson

Japanese Prints in Transition: From the Floating World to the Modern World

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In 1868 Japan’s shogun was overthrown, marking the end of feudal military rule and ushering in the Meiji era (1868–1912), a period of modernization and exchange with other nations. As Japan’s society shifted, so too did its print culture. The delicately colored ukiyo (floating world) woodcut prints of actors, courtesans, and scenic views that had flourished for over a century were replaced with brightly colored images of Western architecture, technology (trains, steam-powered ships, telegraph lines), Victorian fashions and customs, and modern military warfare. Featuring permanent collection works from the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts that haven’t been displayed for a more than a decade, this two-part exhibition (the floating world and the modern world) highlights this stylistic transition and the work of one artist, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, who successfully spanned them both. His distinctive, sometimes eccentric, images serve as a link between the two eras.


This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Presenting Sponsor
John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn

Significant Support
Carrick and Andy McLaughlin

Generous Support
Paul A. Violich

Additional support is provided by Alexandria and Dwight Ashdown, Sandra and Paul Bessières, and Cathy and Howard Moreland. 

Also on view