This focus exhibition investigates depictions of women in Japanese woodblock prints and considers the limited identities and confining roles associated with women during the Tokugawa period (1603–1868). While women may have had diverse roles in Japanese society, only a few conventionalized identities were chosen for representation by the all-male artists, carvers, printers, and agents producing and distributing woodblock prints. Several prints in the exhibition have never been displayed before.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether you go or not, The Women of the Pleasure Quarter: Japanese Paintings and Prints of the Floating World is a fascinating study of geisha, courtesans, kabuki performers as portrayed by masters of Japanese art from 1600 to 1868. It is out of print so may be hard to find. It features more than 200 reproductions, mostly in color, of paintings and woodblock prints depicting women of Japan's licensed prostitution districts. Explores the ideal of the "floating world" associated with the women of the pleasure quarters -- a metaphor of freedom and of living for the moment, exalted in novels, guidebooks and prints; looks at the isolated lives of high-class prostitutes who found a route out of poverty; decodes the artificial style of speech used by courtesans; and explains how the pleasure quarter -- a veritable pressure cooker of desire, greed, love and pride -- provided grist for Kabuki plays, focusing on male actors (onnagata) who specialized in female roles, projecting a soft, cultured ideal of femininity.
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