Interest in the traditional ukiyo-e (floating world) subjects of actors, courtesans, and the kabuki theater waned in the 19th century. These were mass-produced, cheap and widely available, promoting the latest in pop culture or the theater. The artist contributed only the design for the print, the printing was commissioned and supervised by a publisher who was also responsible for distribution.
The woodblock print was reborn by several of the artists represented in this exhibition: Hashiguchi Goyo (1880–1921), and Hiroshi Yoshida (1876–1950) to name two. Instead of trusting their designs to be executed by the block cutters and printers through a publisher, these artists supervised, and sometimes were engaged in the cutting, if not actually participating in the entire printing process. This system was no longer a mass production but optimized the possibilities of this exquisite craft at every step.
Artists made prints of traditional subjects such as beautiful women and landscape in innovative ways. Contemporary events, such as the demolition of the Russian Navy by the Japanese Navy were reported using this centuries old medium of woodblock prints, but had a thoroughly western perspective, evidence of the enthusiasm for the twentieth century technology.