Edo period

Strict feudal rule and a rising middle class characterizes this period.

1615–1868 C.E.

Beginner's Guide

What is the Edo Period?

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<em>Five Beautiful Women</em> by Katsushika Hokusai
Five Beautiful Women by Katsushika Hokusai

“Five Beautiful Women,” by Katsushika Hokusai depicts women of different social backgrounds. Painted on silk, the work prompts the viewer to consider clothing and its relationship to identity. Discover more about Hokusai from Amada Cruz, Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director and CEO of the Seattle Art Museum.

Goto Teijo, Koto
Goto Teijo, Koto

The decorated koto that might be too beautiful to play

Kabuki actor prints
Kabuki actor prints

Kabuki theatre's leading actors influenced fashion and taste and quickly became the subject of popular woodblock prints in Japan

Edo period, an introduction
Edo period, an introduction

The Edo period saw an intensified circulation of visual vocabulary and aesthetic principles between mediums (paintings, ceramics, lacquerware, and textiles often shared the similar motifs) and crossing different registers of culture from design to popular culture to nostalgia for a romanticized pre-modern past.

Hokusai’s printed illustrated Books
Hokusai’s printed illustrated Books

Hokusai’s picture books captivated audiences in Japan in the nineteenth century, and later in Europe and America as well.

A portrait of St. Francis Xavier and Christianity in Japan
A portrait of St. Francis Xavier and Christianity in Japan

A portrait that celebrated Francis Xavier, the “Apostle of Japan” whose mission had inaugurated the Japanese Catholic Church. 

Beyond the Great Wave — Hokusai at 90
Beyond the Great Wave — Hokusai at 90

A fisherman and a woodcutter — at age 90, the great Japanese artist Hokusai painted these moving images of contentment.

Utagawa Kunisada I, <em>Visiting Komachi</em>, from the series <em>Modern Beauties as the Seven Komachi</em>
Utagawa Kunisada I, Visiting Komachi, from the series Modern Beauties as the Seven Komachi

In this example of ukiyo-e, the artist represents a modern woman in the guise of Komachi, a legendary poetess.

Ogata Kōrin, <em>Red and White Plum Blossoms</em>
Ogata Kōrin, Red and White Plum Blossoms

Combining metallic curls with mottled color, Kôrin’s screens capture the pulsing vitality of early spring.

Hokusai, <em>Under the Wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave)</em>
Hokusai, Under the Wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave)

Perhaps the most iconic image in Japanese art, this woodblock print inspired many Western artists—including Monet.

Selected Contributors