School of Art
Colour WoodcutsThe British colour woodcuts in the collection are a Western adaptation of the 19th-century Japanese Ukiyo-e prints. They constitute a strand of the 'aesthetic dialogue' between Japan and the West that is in many ways similar to the collaboration between the Japanese potters and pioneer studio potters in Britain. Both potters and printmakers investigated and adapted the methods and philosophies of Japanese art and crafts in their own work, and both sought to learn from and exchange ideas with Japanese artists.
Allen Seaby, Professor of Art at Reading University, was an influential exponent of the Japanese woodcut method; his bird and topographical prints often treated Western fauna and flora in a manner characteristic of so many Ukiyo-e prints of the early 19th century. Of all the colour woodcuts in the collection, the prints by the Japanese artist Yoshijiro Urushibara alone replicate the consummate technical skill of the Ukiyo-e printmakers of the late Edo period. Urushibara worked in England and France between 1908 and 1934. After the Second World War, however, the Japanese method of colour woodcut printmaking fell out of favour; artists tended to produce colour prints using oil-based inks and used processes such as lithography and screen printing more amenable to experimentation and the production of work on a larger scale.