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From Samurai to Geisha: Depictions of Gender in Japanese Ukiyo-e Woodblock Prints

April 2 – July 16, 2016

Boyle Gallery

1982.11 Japanese Prints 1982.6 Japanese Prints

From 1603 to 1867, Japanese culture flourished and featured a unique and highly controlled system of gender dynamics. Japanese Traditional Theater, or Kabuki (歌舞伎), often exaggerated these dynamics for dramatic and oftentimes comedic effect. Ukiyo-e, translated as “pictures of the floating world,” had artists seeking to translate both these traditional plays as well as living and breathing Japanese society into a vibrant and highly stylized print media. Though depictions of gender within the ‘floating world’ were overstated, they still revealed underlying social norms within Japan at the time of their conception. Femininity was often described with passive stances, occasionally scheming against their masculine counterparts. However, Masculinity by opposition was often represented with characters in a looming dignity. Artists depicted masculine characters standing or raised above their peers with squared shoulders in direct opposition to their feminine or childlike opposites. Drawn from the UW Art Museum’s collection From Samurai to Geisha: Depictions of Gender in Japanese Ukiyo-e Woodblock Prints is the visual dialogue of masculine and feminine gender roles present in Japan during the final years of its period of strict isolation.

  •  Curated with assistance from undergraduate intern, Kayle Avery
  • Lunchtime Conversation with Curators, Wednesday, April 6, 12:00 - 12:30 pm
  • Funded in part by UW Art Museum Gala Funds


Left: Hasegawa Sabanobu I (Japanese, unknown), Kabuki Play: Asao Yoroku II as Matsunaga Daizen, not dated, woodblock print, 9-11/16 x 6-7/8 inches, Friends of the UW Art Museum Purchase, 1982.11

Right: Hirosada Utagawa (Japanese, b. unknown), Untitled, not dated, woodblock print, 9-1/4 x 6-5/8 inches, Friends of the UW Art Museum Purchase, 1982.6

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