Ukiyo-e Prints Course | Exhibition Catalogs


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"The theme of music in ukiyo-e prints has been explored by the RISD art history students for two semesters (fall 2021 and spring 2022) in a hands-on curatorial format. The resulting exhibition Striking Chords: Music in Ukiyo-e Prints, is on view at the RISD Museum from February through July 2022.

The spring semester project is virtual. However, the approach is similar – to comprehensively study music-related prints in the collection of the RISD Museum and to share the findings with interested audiences, albeit in digital format.

Nineteen prints have been selected. In the exhibition’s virtual space, they are displayed according to thematic areas. Those display areas include prints illustrating music played for leisure – sometimes solely for pleasure but occasionally for celebratory occurrences or for moral instruction. Another area shows prints associated with professional performers – actors of the kabuki theater, chanters of the puppet theater, or street entertainers. There are also sections dedicated to prints that depict music performed within mythical lore, or ceremonial music as well as martial music. ...

By close visual exploration of this selection of prints, by investigating circumstances of the scenes represented and peculiarities of the objects depicted, by striving to uncover cultural references imbedded in these images, by listening to music played on the instruments depicted students who curated this exhibition sought to come closer to the beautiful and intriguing world of ukiyo-e prints.

The sound continues for but a moment, ukiyo-e prints were designed as ephemera, but their resonance appears timeless. We hope that this exhibition’s virtual visitors will echo these sentiments." -- Foreword, Striking Chords II: Music in Ukiyo-e Prints

Contributing Authors

Leslie Berumen Flores, Alisa Boardman, Junyi Cao, Yuhi Chang, Connie Cheng, Meicheng Chi, Cyra Cupid, Monet Fukawa, Nina Hong, Ryan Hsiao, Rose Kim, Timothy Li, Jessica Lin, Baidurjya Madhav, Jae Nam, Maxton O'Connor, Jiyeon Park, Zhiying Shi, Hanna Suros, Milo Tomizawa, Kevin Wu, Jingjing Yang, Yisheng Yuan, Jiayun Carina Zhang, Zizheng Roye Zhang, Alex Jihao Zhu.

Publication Date

Spring 2022


traditional format (bookbinding process), japanese


Elena Varshavskaya


Ukiyo-e Prints (H791)




Katsushika Hokusai, Katsushika Taito II, Katsukawa Shunko, Yanagawa Shigenobu, Totoya Hokkei, Keisai Eisen, Utagawa Toyokuni II (Toyoshige), Utagawa Toyokuni III (Kunisada), Utagawa Hiroshige, Hokusai Manga, triptych, surimono, thirteen-string koto, seven-string koto, Japanese spiked fiddle kokyū, shamisen, four-volume manual Designs for All Artisans, street performance daikagura, acrobats, trumpet charumera, ningyo-jōruri puppet theater, libretto yukahon, puppet theater chanter gidayū, “crazy” verse kyōka, Crane poetry group, onnagata, fox spirit kitsune, supernatural being yōkai, long-necked yōkai rokurokubi, Gama-sennin – Immortal with a Toad, Shinto goddess Ame no Uzume, god Sarudahiko, shirabyōshi dance at a Shinto shrine, gohei – ceremonial wand with paper strips, legendary flute player Hakuga no Sanmi, martial music, drum taiko, conch-shell trumpet horagai, cockerel on a drum, sacred jewel hōju, “spring horse” or pony dance harugoma, first dance of the year mōshun, sliding walls fusuma-e, single screen partition tsuitate, a parlor zashiki, twelve signs of zodiac, zodiac sign of snake/serpent, goddess Benzaiten/Benten, Shinobazu Pond, Asukayama, cherry blossom viewing hanami


Art and Design | Japanese Studies | Theory and Criticism

Striking Chords II: Music in Ukiyo-e Prints (2022)



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