The Edo period (1603–1868) witnessed one of the great flowerings of Japanese art. From the mid-seventeenth century, the Japanese states were largely at peace, and rapid urbanization, a rise in literacy and an increase in international contact ensued. The number of those able to purchase luxury goods, or who felt their social position necessitated owning them, soared. Painters and artists flourished and the seventeenth century also saw a rise in the importance of printmaking. There were major steps in official art, and also in popular and oppositional forms.
Obtaining Images introduces the reader to important artists and their work, but also to the intellectual issues and concepts surrounding the production, consumption and display of art in Japan in the Edo period. Rather than looking at these through the lens of European art, the book contextualizes the making and use of paintings, prints and Buddhist icons, elucidating how and why works were commissioned, where they were displayed and what special properties were attributed to them.
Obtaining Images firmly anchors the art of Japan of this period in its contemporary context, offering a highly engaging and comprehensive introduction for the student and general reader alike.
‘Obtaining Images is a beautiful book, full of insights on every page. Timon Screech transforms our view of Japanese art, showing it to us through the eyes of the people who made, commissioned, bought and saw it, and in the process taking us right under the skin of this very different society and mindset.’ – Literary Review
‘Obtaining Images is a wide-ranging synthetic analysis of Edo-period art. Few authors have offered as much integrated commentary on Edo images and engaged with as many significant issues as Timon Screech has in this volume . . . Reading this book is a bit like seeing a familiar landscape in a fresh, new light . . . Pages are peppered with intriguing tales . . . packed with piquant detail and novel perspectives . . . Screech’s aim is also to make his reader question received thought on Edo-period art and appreciate its great complexity . . . not only has he accomplished this, but he has accomplished something perhaps even more difficult: he has written a synthesis of the Edo-period pictorial world complete enough to satisfy the specialist’s expectation yet engaging enough to hold the non-specialist’s attention.’ – Monumenta Nipponica
‘For those with an interest in the marketplace of production, the book includes fascinating details on the interactions between consumers and patrons, on one side, and the artists and producers, on the other . . . I strongly recommend this book to all scholars and students (especially literary specialists) with an interest in Edo-period culture.’ – Japan Review
‘The volume's exemplary profusion is also one of its attractions . . . Every aspect of this survey is supported by explanatory material drawn from mythical, historical, literary, anecdotal, philosophical, poetic, liturgical or folklore souces in, and extensively beyond, Edo itself . . . Screech reveals his own polymath curiosities and talent for linking and connection making, between images and communities, ideas and practices, contexts and tastes, domestic and transcultural interests . . . he illuminates the complex, changing, and nuanced appreciations of just what pictorial images should be as they were negotiated and shared by artists and their publics throughout the years of Togugawa rule.’ – New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies
‘With the appearance of Obtaining Images, Timon Screech continues a sequence of generally related books and articles that have explored (in often idiosyncratic but rewarding ways) the visual culture of the Edo period. Those familiar with Screech’s work will see on display his predilection for oblique entry into obscure territory, emerging, more often than not, with engaging and fresh perspectives.’ – Journal of Japanese Studies
Timon Screech is Professor of the History of Art at soas, University of London, and author of many books on Japanese history and culture, including Sex and the Floating World: Erotic Images in Japan, 1700–1820 (2nd edn Reaktion, 2009).