Japanese Ukiyo-e art comes alive in new immersive exhibition in Milan

Category: Lifestyle/Entertainment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. immersive / ɪˈmɜr sɪv / (adj.) – relating to digital technology or images that make someone feel he/she is really in a virtual environment

    The cool video game provided an immersive experience, making players feel like they were really in another world.

  2. contemporary / kənˈtɛm pəˌrɛr i / (adj.) – belonging to the present time

    The museum features both classical and contemporary art, providing visitors with a diverse cultural experience.

  3. genre / ˈʒɑn rə / (n.) – a category or type of artistic, literary, or musical composition characterized by similarities in style, form, or content

    My favorite movie genre is romance.

  4. stylistic / staɪˈlɪs tɪk / (adj.) – relating to the particular way in which something is done or expressed

    The poet’s way of writing illustrates her stylistic talent in poetry.

  5. thematic / θiˈmæt ɪk / (adj.) – relating to a specific subject or theme

    The movie has a strong thematic focus on the importance of family bonds.


Read the text below.

A new immersive exhibition in Milan is bringing the Japanese art tradition of Ukiyo-e to audiences in Italy. Translated as ‘floating world on print,’ Ukiyo-e was popular between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Artists produced woodblock prints and paintings on numerous themes including landscapes, folklore and famous faces.

“Ukiyo-e contains two words: ‘ukiyo,’ which means the floating world. Literally, it means contemporary world. But in this case, floating world, and ‘e’ which in Japanese is like prints, images and drawings,” explains Exhibit Director, Koji Ogawa.

The genre had a huge influence in the West, especially with impressionist artists, creating a new art form in the late 19th century known as Japonism.

“Ukiyo-e artists at first were influenced by the Western artists and architectures. Above all for the sense of perspective. Before in Japanese paintings, there were not such kind of stylistic perspective, and then thanks to the perspective in their prints, they influenced back the Western artists like the Impressionists, like Van Gogh and Gauguin. After Ukiyo-e there was this period called the Japonism,” says Ogawa.

Among the various Ukiyo-e themes, particular relevance was given to landscapes, female faces and actors famed for Kabuki – a style of Japanese theatre that combines dramatic performance with traditional dance.

“The exhibition develops in nine thematic rooms. Each represents one of the themes of Ukiyo-e. In particular, we have two new rooms, which were not present in Nagoya where the exhibit first took place. In particular, we have a Daruma on which prints are projected, and a room dedicated to Shunga, Japanese erotic prints,” says Sara Hailoua, the exhibit’s press and media director.

“Ukiyo-e had many themes and genres, one of these were landscapes, especially mountains and volcanoes, like the famous image of the wave with Mount Fuji in the background. The other themes were for example people, such as Kabuki actors and female beauties,” adds Higashiyama Takeaki, producer and general director of the exhibit.

UKIYO-E: IMMERSIVE ART opened on April 4 and runs until June 16.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • In your opinion, why does Ukiyo-e continue to captivate audiences worldwide despite being centuries old (ex. because of its numerous themes, many people are interested in Japanese culture and history)? Discuss.
  • What art tradition of your country do you want to be showcased at an international exhibit? How do you think this art tradition will affect foreign people (ex. it will inspire them, it will help them understand our country’s culture)? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Ukiyo-e artists initially drew inspiration from Western artists and architectures. How do you feel about the idea of artists from different cultures inspiring each other’s work? Do you think it leads to more interesting and diverse art? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • If you were an artist, what would you like to be the theme of your artwork (ex. landscapes, famous faces)? What influences or inspirations do you imagine would shape your artwork (ex. the natural world around me, personal experiences and emotions)? Discuss.