Art: The Floating World

Now that the dust of war had settled, Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum could drag out the priceless Japanese prints it acquired in 1936, and had never displayed. On exhibit last week, the Met's 339 Uki-yoye ("pictures of the floating world") were new proof that no one ever beat the Japanese at printmaking.

Before Perry opened Japan to the West, the average Jap was a connoisseur who bought the best colored block prints for a few pennies each, as Americans of the day bought Currier & Ives. Ukiyoye, like the Currier & Ives, were mostly genre...

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