On August 5, 2020, the exhibition "Exotic Copainting -- Fine Japanese Ukiyo-e and Qing Dynasty Wood-block New Year Paintings collected by the National Art Museum of China" was held at the National Art Museum of China.
A total of 129 sets (138 pieces) of works collected by the National Art Museum of China were exhibited, including 75 Pieces of Japanese Ukiyo-e, 52 sets of Wood plate New Year paintings of the Qing Dynasty (61 pieces) and 2 pieces of Chinese paintings of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
The exhibition is divided into four parts: "Origin and change", "Image and style", "art and audience" and "production and distribution". This paper discusses the similarities and differences between Japanese Ukiyo-e and Qing Dynasty woodcut New Year paintings from the aspects of origin, technology, distribution and style, bringing a visual feast to the audience.
China and Japan are both eastern countries, geographically close to each other, and have blended and learned from each other in culture and art for thousands of years. In history, Chinese Buddhist art in tang Dynasty and Ink painting in Song and Yuan Dynasties have exerted an important influence on the development of Japanese art. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the wooded printing technology reached its maturity, which not only promoted the Chinese wooded New Year paintings to their peak in the Qing Dynasty, but also promoted the rise and development of Japanese Ukiyo-e painting. The Wood engraving New Year paintings of The Qing Dynasty and The Ukiyo-e paintings of Japan have profound historical origins, similar production techniques, and have their own artistic styles and national characteristics. They shine and complement each other in the Oriental world from the 17th century to the 19th century, becoming two bright pearls in the treasure house of Oriental art. The subject matter of the Wood plate New Year paintings of the Qing Dynasty is close to the life of the common people, with bright and lively colors and diverse regional styles.
As a folk art form of weeding out the old at the end of the year and welcoming the new and praying for blessings, New Year pictures embody people's long cherished wish for peace, happiness, wealth and good fortune, depict the ideal world that people yearn for, and bear the common national memory. Ukiyo-e is a custom print in the Edo Period (1603-1868), which is the product of the developed civil culture. "Ukiyo-e" means "the painting of the imaginary world", which contains the meaning of life, such as passing clouds and smoke, timely entering into the world of pleasure. In terms of the content, it shows the life of the market, various characters and natural scenery, and has positive significance of affirming the spirit of this world. Wood engraving New Year paintings of The Qing Dynasty and Japanese Ukiyo-e paintings, as representatives of the national art of China and Japan, have many similarities.
From the perspective of historical background, the prosperity of the two benefited from the stability of the society, the development of commodity economy and the maturity of wooded plate overprinter technology. In the process of art, the two almost parallel development, from the 17th century to the 19th century experienced the rise, prosperity and gradual decline of the process. In the production process, are influenced by the Ming dynasty books prints, wood plate overprinter technology, with the characteristics of repeatable printing. In terms of subject matter, it reflects the secular life, thoughts and feelings of the common people, and is full of life atmosphere and folk customs. In the technique of expression, the rich and bright colors show the characteristics of folk art, and the method of marking the lines to fill in the colors shows the plane decoration characteristics of Oriental art.
Due to the differences in social functions and artistic traditions, wood engraving New Year paintings of the Qing Dynasty and Ukiyo-e paintings of Japan respectively present different artistic styles and aesthetic tastes, and reflect different psychological demands and national characters. The former mostly selects subjects popular among people in farming society, with positive contents and a warm and happy atmosphere. It expresses the Chinese people's inner wish for a better life and reflects the national character of being happy and open-minded. The latter depicts brothole-house beauties, kabuki and scenic spots, creating a gorgeous and slightly sentimental aesthetic world, reflecting the Japanese people's deep psychology of lamenting the shortness of life, the pursuit of worldly enjoyment and the worship of nature, and reflecting the Japanese nation's delicate and sensitive personality characteristics and open attitude to life's desire.