ArtLex Art Dictionary



EEdo period or Edo era - A period in Japanese art history from 1615 to 1868. Edo is the original name for Tokyo. The period began when the warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu took control of Japan, established his shogunate capital and started shaping the country to his will. He shut the door to the outside world and kept his daimyo underlords on a tight leash, requiring them to reside in Edo every other year, where he held their wives and children as hostages. The rigid structure of Edo society was based on imported neo-Confucian values, with the military elite and salt-of-the-earth farmers at the top and middleman merchants below. A code of nit-picking sumptuary laws dictated who could own and wear what. Among the upper classes, competitive extravagance was as much a social responsibility as a privilege, and it produced an extraordinary art.

Japanese art of this period includes painted screens, samurai swords, ceramics, theater costume, Buddhist sculptures, woodcuts, and much more.

The Edo period was preceded by the Momoyama period (1490-1573).

The late Edo period was an urban moment; Tokyo in the 18th century was the largest city in the world. Class barriers were fluid; money was new, loose, plentiful. Downtime became a preoccupation, leisure an industry.

Modern Japan — the nation of megacities and entrepreneurial acumen, of a brash popular culture and tenaciously held traditions — was basically an Edo creation.



Examples of Japanese art during the Edo period:



see thumbnail to rightAnonymous Town Painter (Japanese, active early 17th century), Willows by the Uji Bridge -- first and second, pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper, Worcester Art Museum, MA.



see thumbnail to leftAttributed to Kano Sansetsu (Japanese, 1589/90-1651), The Old Plum, Edo period (1615-1868), c. 1645, four sliding door panels (fusuma), ink, color, and gold leaf on paper, height 68 3/4 inches (174.6 cm), width of one panel 45 11/16 inches (116 cm), width of all four panels 15 feet 11 1/8 inches (485.3 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.



see thumbnail to rightOgata Korin (Japanese, 1658-1716), Eight-Planked Bridge (Yatsuhashi), Edo period (1615-1868), 18th century, pair of six-panel folding screens, ink, color, and gold leaf on paper, Each 70 1/2 x 12 feet 2 1/4 inches (179.1 x 371.5 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.




see thumbnail to leftMyochin Muneakira (Japanese, 1673-1745), Mask, 1745, Edo period, lacquered iron, height 9 1/2 inches (24.1 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. This mask was made as armor to protect a soldier's head. See arms & armor.



Watanabe Shiko (Japanese, Edo period, 1683-1755), Irises [detail], Cleveland Museum of Art.



see thumbnail to rightKaigetsudo Doshin (Japanese, active 1700-16), Courtesan, Edo period, hanging scroll; ink and opaque color on paper; signature: Nippon giga Kaigetsu; matsuyo Doshin zu (a pleasure picture in Japanese style by Doshin, a last leaf of Kaigetsu); seal: Ando, Worcester Art Museum, MA. See ukiyo-e.



see thumbnail to leftJapan, Noh robe (Nuihaku), Edo period (1615-1868), second half of the 18th century, silk embroidery and gold leaf on satin, height 61 1/4 inches (155.6 cm), width at sleeves 21 1/8 inches (53.7 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See costume.


see thumbnail to rightNagasawa Rosetsu (Japanese, 1754-99), Bamboo, 1790s, six-panel folding screen; ink on paper; no signature; seals: (upper) Nagasawa, (lower) Gyo, Worcester Art Museum, MA. See bamboo and nature.



see thumbnail to leftKatsushika Hokusai (Japanese, 1760-1849), The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, from "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji", Edo period, 1823-29, color woodcut, 10 x 15 inches, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.




see thumbnail to rightIshiguro Masayoshi (Japanese, 1772-after 1851), Sword Guard (Tsuba), 19th century, Edo period, shakudo, gold, shibuichi, copper, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See arms and armor.




see thumbnail to leftAndo Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797-1858), Great Bridge: Sudden Rain at Atake, Edo period, 1857, color woodcut. Rain is pelting pedestrians on the bridge at Ohashi in the city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo).





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