浮世絵 Follow the wave, the Ukiyo-e exhibition at Palazzo Reale in Milan.

浮世絵 Follow the wave, the Ukiyo-e exhibition at Palazzo Reale in Milan.

I’ve been to “Follow the wave”, the Ukiyo-e exhibition at Palazzo Reale in Milan. A selection of works from three great ukiyo-e masters, Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Hiroshige and Kitagawa Utamaro.

Ukiyo-e (浮世絵 literally “Pictures of the floating world”) were the hedonistic lifestyle, developed in Japan from the 17th to the 19th centuries and dedicated to the enjoyment of every single moment and to pleasure in all its forms.

The Ukiyo-e woodblock prints were impressed on hand-made paper in several colors and were the works of teams of artisans in different workshops (artist, woodcarver, printer).

Images of everyday Japan, popular geisha, sumo wrestlers, kabuki actors, stations, beautiful landscape and of course the Mount Fuji.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa
The Ukiyo-e print process of “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”.


If initially considered ephemeral and vulgar, Ukiyo-e became one of the highpoints of Japanese cultural achievement. Due to their cheap price and charming appearance, these prints became extremely popular with ordinary townspeople in the metropolitan culture of Edo (Tokyo).

The Ukiyo-e exhibition at Palazzo Reale in Milan.


The influence of Western culture into Japan such as photography, leading to diminished interest in ukiyo-e within Japan. However, the prints gained some prominence in Europe where they had an influence in the Impressionism, Synthetism, Cloisonnism and more. Such was the craze for Japanese artworks, a phase known as Japonism.

La courtisane by Vincent van Gogh; Detail of Portrait of Émile Zola by Édouard Manet; Divan Japonais by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; Expectation III by Gustav Klimt.



Interesting how the Ukiyo-e is exactly the opposite of the 武士道  Bushidō, (literally “Way of the Warrior”) the ethics of samurai, stressing unquestioning loyalty and obedience and valuing honor above life.

1 Comment Leave a reply

  1. Indy
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    Great – thanks for sharing!


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