Academic Commons

Chapters (Layout Features)

Hokusai and the Blue Revolution in Edo Prints

Smith II, Henry D.

This article introduces new evidence for the spread of the use of the pigment Prussian blue in Japanese woodblock prints (nishiki-e), in the form of a fan print by Keisai Eisen, dated to the year 1829, and now in collection of the Brooklyn Museum. I argue that this must be the fan print of a “Landscape of China” described in a miscellany titled Masaki no kazura by an Edo bookseller Seisōdō Tōho, which identified it as the first in a new genre of aizuri (“blue print”) in which the color blue is printed in several different shades of Prussian blue. Records of the trade in Prussian blue through Nagasaki by both Dutch and Chinese ships are introduced, showing a sudden and steady increase in the volume and drop in the price of the pigment relative to the Dutch product in the years 1824-28. The earlier history of the use of Prussian blue in Japan, both in paintings and prints, is traced, turning finally to its use by Hokusai in his celebrated “Thirty-Six View of Mount Fuji,” proposing that the use of all blue in the earliest prints of the series was directly inspired by the Eisen fan print, and help us to better understand the order in which they appeared. Finally, the various meanings of the color blue in late Tokugawa culture are discussed.

Geographic Areas

Files

  • thumnail for 2005 Blue revolution in Carpenter ed OCR.pdf 2005 Blue revolution in Carpenter ed OCR.pdf application/pdf 11.3 MB Download File

Also Published In

Title
Hokusai and His Age: Ukiyo-e Painting, Printmaking, and Book Illustration in Late Edo Japan
Publisher
Hotei Publishing

More About This Work

Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Published Here
August 31, 2020

Notes

Source: "Hokusai and the Blue Revolution in Edo Prints." In John T. Carpenter, ed., Hokusai and His Age: Ukiyo-e Painting, Printmaking, and Book Illustration in Late Edo Japan (Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing, 2005), pp. 234-69.