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Modern Japanese prints, by the way, fetched a lot of awards in international art shows after world war II.

And since then they have kept a high reputation worldwide.

Some early art critics went even so far to regard everything made after ca. Meiji prints are similar in style and subjects to Edo prints.

But you can recognize them usually quite easily by their gaudy, strong colors and often by the subjects like Japanese people in Western uniforms or the display of Western technical "achievements" like locomotives. It was a renaissance of the old Japanese woodblock printmaking with a bit of Western modernization like the use of perspective and the use of the effects of shadow and light which the Japanese had learned from the French impressionists.

The difference in quality is the main reason why collectors strive to get early impressions and why they are willing to pay more for them (The collector community speaks of early "editions", which is misleading).

Sometimes you have some odd stamps on prints that allow a more precise dating.

In the course of the invention of the printing press other techniques developed in Europe to produce written documents or images in larger numbers like moveable type printing, lithography or printing from steel plates. The Japanese had learned from the Chinese how to create books and images by carving onto blocks of wood.

Over centuries the Japanese had further developed and refined this technique to heights that have remained unrivaled until our days.

And this is what a small community of collectors appreciates so much. And finally there are the modern prints made after world war II.

After 1945 the Japanese art scene became international.

Western printing techniques like silkscreen, etching or mixes of different techniques have been adopted by Japanese printmakers. Japanese prints can be grouped into basically 5 art periods and movements that vary distinctively from each other - Edo, Meiji, shin hanga, sosaku hanga and modern prints after world war II. These prints represent the classical period of Japanese woodblock printmaking. Edo prints, by the way, were created as mass media, for instance as advertising sheets for kabuki theaters.

And sometimes even the few indicators are contested in their meaning among experts.

And for you as a newbie to Japanese prints all these characters and stamps on the print are a mystery anyway because you cannot read them.

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