Art History Students Re-Imagine Ukiyo-e Prints in Current Culture

Students looking at woodblock prints
Students of ARH 356, Art of Japan, viewing Ukiyo-e prints from the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art collection, spring 2020, Dr. Doris Sung, The University of Alabama

Students in Dr. Doris Sung’s Art of Japan course this spring conducted in-depth research on the original Ukiyo-e prints housed in the Permanent Collection of the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art. The Ukiyo-e (“picture of the floating world”) woodblock print is a unique Japanese art form popularized during the Edo period (1615-1868), a time when vibrant, new popular culture developed, including haiku poetry, popular fiction and Kabuki theatre. Ukiyo-e prints were an affordable popular art that depicted images of kabuki actors, theatrical scenes, geishas, and famous tourist sites and landscapes.

In conjunction with their research, Dr. Sung’s students worked on a creative project based on a print they chose. Based on elements such as the composition, figures and texts of the print, they re-imagined their print and created a new work to tell stories related to current news or social issues. They used all types of media including photographs, computer graphics and found images to create a two-dimensional work on a piece of paper the size of a standard oban print (about 15 x 10 inches).

Check out some of the examples of the student work and the originals that inspired them below.