Edo and Meiji era Japanese artwork now available for free download

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Attention all designers, artists, fashion enthusiasts and people who just appreciate some nice Japanese artwork: The Smithsonian Libraries should be your best friends.

Among their thousands of other free artwork and books, The Smithsonian Libraries and the Freer and Slacker Galleries, Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Arts now offer free downloads of thousands of beautiful Japanese prints.

Haven’t you ever wanted the simple yet colorful and whimsical prints of Meiji era (1868-1912) artwork as a digital file on your computer? Yeah, we have too and we’re really excited about this cool find.

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The collection is in fact a series of monthly design magazines, entitled Shin-bijutsukai.They were released in 1902 to show various designs by famous artists of the day. Artists featured include the editor himself, Korin Furuya, and his predecessor, Kamisaka Sekka. Sekka is known for being one of the first to incorporate Western tastes, styles and methods into traditional Japanese-style works. Furuya carried on this new, modern Japanese style and helped spread it around the world.

▼ Can you see the Western influence?

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If you want digital access to the pictures above and hundreds more, head to The Smithsonian Libraries website. There are two volumes of Shin-bijutsukai and both can be downloaded in their entirety by clicking the links towards the bottom of the website here.

Be aware, the files are kind of big, so you might want to stick with computers, not smart phones for this one.

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If you’re more into traditional artwork, the Freer and Slacker Museums also offer countless free downloads of artwork from all over Asia here. In the Japan section, you can find Edo period woodblock prints from world-famous artists, such as Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige.

▼ “Wood-block Print of Two Fish with Floral Sprays and a Poetic Inscription” by Utagawa Hiroshige.

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▼ “Merry Makers at Cherry Blossom Festival” by Yeisen

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Sometimes staring at pictures in museums just isn’t enough; you want to get them from the wall and onto your computer. Now you can and what’s even better, is that they’re available for free. Thank you technology and thank you Smithsonian Library.

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