Japanese Woodblock Prints

Utagawa Hiroshige II (Japanese, 1826-1869) Yoshida, 1863 Woodblock print 14 1/8 x 9 5/8 in. (35.9 x 24.4 cm) Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Al and Betsy Buck in memory of Alfred Eliab Buck and Ellen Baker Buck, 2006.19.8The majority of the Japanese woodblock prints in the museum’s collection are from a genre called ukiyo-e, which means, “pictures of the floating world.” The genre was produced between the seventeenth and the late nineteenth centuries and features motifs of landscapes, the theater, and city life.  The collection was formed from two major gifts.

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Constance Lyon Collection

The notable collection of Japanese woodblock prints at Tacoma Art Museum is largely the gift of a single collector, Constance R. Lyon (née Rice). Constance Lyon was a descendant of the founder of the St. Paul and Tacoma Lumber Co., who developed an interest in Japanese prints as a girl after hearing a lecture on ukiyo-e at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Dr. Roger Keyes, one of the world’s foremost experts on ukiyo-e, helped Lyon shape her collection during the 1960s through the 1980s.The Lyon Collection consists of over 200 prints ranging in date from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century, with the majority dating to the nineteenth century.

Al and Betsy Buck Collection

In 2006, Al and Betsy Buck added to the museum’s collection by donating fifty-two Japanese woodblock prints dating from the early nineteenth-century to the early twentieth-century. They were collected by Alfred Eliab Buck and Ellen Baker Buck, during Alfred Eliab Buck’s tenure as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Empire of Japan from 1897 to 1902. They were inherited by Al Buck and donated by him and his wife Betsy in 2006.

Despite their age, the prints are in nearly pristine condition because the family carefully stored them for more than a century. Highlights of the collection include prints documenting military campaigns from the Meiji Period (1868–1912) and images of the westernization of Japan of the late nineteenth century. The collection also includes a number of scenes from the popular Chūshingura  (Treasury of the Forty-seven Loyal Retainers), often referred to as The Tale of the Forty-seven Rōnin.

Utagawa Hiroshige II (Japanese, 1826-1869), Yoshida, 1863, Woodblock print, 14 1/8 x 9 5/8 inches (35.9 x 24.4 cm). Tacoma Art Museum, Gift of Al and Betsy Buck in memory of Alfred Eliab Buck and Ellen Baker Buck, 2006.19.8