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Actor Prints from Osaka

07.06.2011 to 28.08.2011

In the 17th century, the woodcut print began evolving into an independent art form in the region around Kyoto and Osaka called Kamigata. Although this region often spawned seminal artistic trends, the prints that stemmed from here largely went unnoticed, in spite of their magnificent quality, until well into the second half of the 20th century. While woodcuts in Edo, now known as Tokyo, then centre of the art form, drew from a wide range of subjects, the public's interest in Osaka and Kyoto was almost exclusively focused on actors of kabuki theatre, and remained so until the 1830s.

The luxurious quality of the Osaka prints-their artistic design, the technical skill involved and their sensitive colouring-reflects the high financial standing that art and culture connected with the theatre enjoyed in the rich trading city of Osaka. In contrast to Edo, a city of several million inhabitants, the number of local woodcut artists and publishing houses in Osaka and Kyoto was relatively small, allowing much more close-knit ties between all those involved. Instead of being locked in bitter competition, the scene in Osaka and Kyoto was frequently defined by collaborations between several publishers and artists, which in turn encouraged the emergence of a distinctive regional style.

The exhibition presents a small selection of distinguished prints from the 19th century, taken from the museum's own collection, which, with very few exceptions, are now going on show to the Berlin public for the first time.