Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints

When Japan opened to the West in 1854, the prints known as ukiyo-e, or “images of the floating world,” fascinated and delighted European audiences, especially in France, where the term japonisme was coined to describe the influence of this art form. Yet this familiar narrative emphasizes the impact of one artistic culture upon another, ignoring the fact that both Japan and France had flourishing traditions of color printmaking before the opening of Japan.

In this catalogue for the Smart Museum of Art's exhibition Awash in Color, the authors put forth an ambitious parallel history with more than one hundred exquisite color prints and woodblock-printed books that trace the evolution of color printing technologies from the early eighteenth century through the explosion of color print techniques in the mid- to late nineteenth century, and finally to the twentieth-century resurgence of woodblock printing as seen in aesthetic movements such as art deco and the original print movement.

Distinguished contributors span a wide range of fields and provide insight and context for the work within Japanese and French art history, as well as the study of printmaking. A beautiful companion to an important exhibit, Awash in Color is essential reading—and viewing—not only for scholars of Japanese and European art, but also design enthusiasts everywhere.


By Chelsea Foxwell and Anne Leonard, with contributions by David Acton, Laura Kalba, Andreas Marks, Andrew Stevens, Stephanie Su, and David Waterhouse.

Publication date

October 2012


Paper, 224 pages, 120 color plates, 8 x 11"



Purchase this catalogue

Available for $30 online from the University of Chicago Press or in person at the Smart Museum Shop.