WHEN U.S. Commodore M. C. Perry opened Japan to Western influence in 1853, he dealt a death blow in its own homeland to a waning but graceful and distinctively Japanese art—the woodblock print. But the clean, flat patterns of Japanese printers had a major influence on Western painters from Whistler to Matisse. A century later, the influence has been reversed. Japanese artists, freshly inspired by the works of European post-impressionists and abstractionists, are breathing new life into an old form.

The Heel of a Shoe. The woodprints that flourished in 17th-19th century Japan were called Ukiyo-e, meaning "Picture of the Passing World."...

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