The Women of the Pleasure Quarter: Japanese Paintings and Prints of the Floating World

The Women of the Pleasure Quarter: Japanese Paintings and Prints of the Floating World

September 22, 1996 to December 1, 1996

This exhibition of 105 Japanese ukiyo-e paintings, multicolored woodblock prints, and illustrated books of Edo-period Japan (1615–1868) included works from the more than 200-year history of the Japanese print, from the late 17th through the late 19th century, and featured such masters as Harunobu, Hiroshige, Koryusai, and Utamaro. This was the first exhibition to explore the world of the pleasure quarters and entertainment districts of the Edo period and to examine the meaning of courtesans in Japanese popular culture.

Imaginative and clever, urbane, stylish and showy, ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) is an artistic expression that emerged from the cities of Edo-period Japan (1615–1868) particularly the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo). The floating world as a water metaphor carries ancient associations of freedom and pleasure; ukiyo (the floating world) celebrates the delightful uncertainties of life, when people lived for the moment, floating merrily along like a gourd upon the waves. Included in the exhibition were works by the legendary Japanese artists Utamaro and Hiroshige.

This exhibition was the Kimbell’s contribution to Sun and Star 1996, a 100-day celebration of Japanese culture in Fort Worth and Dallas. EDS and Hitachi, Ltd. were the founding sponsors of the festival.

Caption: Kikugawa Eizan, Chōdayū of the Okamotoya with Kamuro (detail), 1830s, multicolored woodblock print. Worcester Art Museum, John Chandler Bancroft Collection