Graphics: Unknown Masters in Wood

Just as U.S. servicemen and college students tack pictures of Raquel Welch or travel posters on their walls, so merchants and tradesmen in 18th and 19th century Japan delighted in cheap, mass-produced wood-block prints, or hanga. These genre pictures showed well-known actors or courtesans of the day, picturesque views of Mount Fuji and picaresque travel scenes. They were known as ukiyo-e, literally "pictures of the floating world," because to devout Buddhists everyday existence was a transient stage in man's journey to nirvana. Yet the lasting charm and skill with which the...

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