Some people say, ‘why Japanese prints?’… or, ‘it’s a bit niche isn’t it?’ Well, yes and no. The market for Japanese prints is large. Pensive Love, 1790, by Utamaro fetched €313,00 at auction in 2002. A fine Hiroshige can sell for up to $30,000 at the moment. There are major sales by all the big auction houses twice a year, and all the major international museums have large collections and put on regular exhibitions. Ukiyo-e, or pictures of the floating world, are a major art form, they are a good solid investment and the market is stable and rising. Most of all they’re simply unbelievably beautiful.
The nice thing about collecting Japanese prints is that the period is fairly confined, the artists are very consistent and the prices are mainly affordable. It’s still within most budgets to purchase a first edition Kuniyoshi and see it in a major exhibition or illustrated in a text book.
The key thing, as in all art collecting is to love the work, love the artist… become involved in their world, their dreams, their obsessions. The Utagawa School is a good place to start. The work of these artists is popular, available and accessible, there are plenty of text books available and a lot of good online source material. We can point you in the direction of online resources if you see something you like and want to find out more about it. This blog is intended to open the window on an art form, and a world of decadence and mystery gone for ever.
Illustrated is Thirty-Two Aspects of Customs and Manners: Looking itchy – The Appearance of a Kept Woman of the Kansei Era, 1888, from the current exhibition at the Toshidama Gallery. It’s a ‘trophy piece’, if you like. It’s a very famous print; a Google search will take you to it as a large image on Wikipedia and it tends to be the representative image of this artist. It is a fine and knowing piece of drawing and a fine example of the skill of the printmaker.