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A period in Japanese art history from 1600 to 1868 was called the Edo period. Edo is the original name for Tokyo (http//www.artlex.com/ArtLex/e/edo.html). This period began when the warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu took control of Japan in 1600 and succeeded in bringing peace and stability to Japan, both economically and politically. He then established his shogunate capital and started shaping the country to his will. As people became more and more wealthy under its regime, they began to take control of cultural activities. There were strict laws in Edo that kept close tabs on who could own and wear what. Among the wealthy, there was lots of competition with regards to luxury and as a result produced extraordinary art. This extravagance was referred to as the Ukiyo (“The floating world”) (http//www.monks.demon.co.uk/hocus.htm). Japanese art of this period was called the Ukiyo-e, and included painted screens, samurai swords, ceramics, theater costume, Buddhist sculptures, woodcuts, and much more (http//www.monks.demon.co.uk/hocus.htm).


In the early years of the Edo period, however, the full impact of Tokugawa policies had not yet been felt, and some of Japans finest works of architecture and painting were produced Katsura Palace in Kyoto and the paintings of Sotatsu were two renown arts of the time . Katsura, built in imitation of Prince Genjis palace, contains a cluster of shoin buildings that combine elements of classic Japanese architecture with innovative additions (http//www.oir.ucf.edu/wm/paint/tl/japan/edo.html). The whole complex is surrounded by a beautiful garden with paths for walking. Sotatsu evolved a superb decorative style by re-creating themes from classical literature, using vividly colored figures and motifs from the natural world with gold-leaf backgrounds. One of his finest works is a pair of screens, The Waves at Matsushima, which is located at the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C.


Another Japanese painter, also a wood graver, born during the Edo period was Katsushika Hokusai (1760 - 184) (http//www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/hokusai/). He is considered one of the most influential characters of the Ukiyo-e school of printmaking. Hokusai learned the popular technique of woodcut printmaking in 1775 from countrymen Katsukawa Shunsho. Between 176 and 180 he produced a vast number of book illustrations and color prints, conceivably as many as 0,000, that stemmed from the traditions, legends, and lives of the Japanese people. Hokusais most typical wood-block prints, silk screens, and landscape paintings were done between 180 and 1840. One of his most famous silk screens is called The Great Wave of Kanagawa (shown below) (http//www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/hokusai/).





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