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Woodblock Prints: Iconic form of Japanese art

Posted on March 25, 2020 at 4:20 PM by Brooke Rogers

Celebrated for their one-of-a-kind process and distinctive appearance, woodblock prints have become a widely recognized and iconic form of Japanese art. The exhibition Contemplate Japan at the Brunnier Art Museum showcases dozens of Japanese woodblock prints from the late 1700s up to the early twentieth century including Falcon on a Pine Branch.

Iowa State has collected Japanese woodblock prints for close to a century. Beginning in the 1920s, faculty in the Home Economic Division were inspired by Japanese art and designs, often incorporating the prints they personally collected into art history and interior aesthetics classes.

One of the most notable collectors of Japanese woodblock prints for Iowa State College was Miss Joanna M. Hansen (1879-1965), professor and head of the Department of Applied Arts. One of the prints she collected (seen above) is of a gyrfalcon. Gyrfalcon’s are native to Japan and are the largest birds in the falcon family. Often found perching in trees, this watchful bird is depicted on a pine branch which symbolizes longevity in traditional Japanese culture.

In the 1960s Miss Hansen gifted this print as well as the majority of her personal collection to the Department of Applied Arts. After the founding of the Brunnier Art Museum in 1975, the Applied Art collections were transferred and the Japanese  woodblock prints added to the permanent collection of University Museums. Today the University Museums collection has over 15 donors whose generosity has expanded the Japanese woodblock print collection to over 260 prints. #ContemplateJapan #WoodblockPrints

IMAGE: Falcon on a Pine Branch, c. 1790 by Utamaro. Gift of Joanna M. Hansen. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, IA. UM82.50

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