One of the greatest woodblock artists of this time was Albrecht Durer, master printmaker who became famous for his woodblocks and engravings. Durer set the technical standard for prints during his time. Just how painters were developing techniques of three dimensional illusions within a two dimensional plane; Durer fools the viewer to think his woodblock prints are ink drawings. With extreme detail Durer’s line work holds up on multiple levels, the tiniest of details are visible in small pointy stars, the curls of hair, leaves of grass and overlapping shooting stars. Standing back, much of the meticulous line work blends together and shadows start to fall into place, depth starts to emerge from figure’s cloaks and muscles. He was an incredibly busy bee, producing multiple woodblock series throughout his life, at the epitome of his woodblocks is the Apocalypse series depicting the end of the world. It’s the earliest series and his draftsmanship isn’t as refined at this point, but his block cutting is magnificent. Of all of his prints the Apocalypse series is the most bold and energetic, the compositions are noisy and the contrast of the line is louder compared to his later work that trades the energy for realism. Though later in his career he does strike a balance between the two in the print Coronation of the Virgin. This print shows his youthful experience with the confident use of bold blacks while having the constraint of his later years within the delicate figures and accents. At this point in life he has been to Italy a few times and his figures show that influence. Culminating styles, he is able to achieve a pleasant balance of contrast that you seems to influence following renaissance artists, like Caravaggio, who is known for ushering in
All the way to the other side of the world, and two hundred years later the ukiyo-e movement within Japan was dying down. Ukiyo-e was a traditional woodblock with labor distribution that split the work of a print between a designer, block cutter, and printer. Among the dying breed of these printmakers was Utagawa Kuniyoshi. They produced the last masterpieces of traditional styles, while paving the way for the next artists. Compared to western art the rendering in eastern prints doesn’t try to create a false sense of 3d space with lighting and shadows, or even trying to create an imitation of real life. Much more focus is put into capturing the ideal image of persons or objects, each line has a special characteristic about itself. Kuniyoshi shows his technical mastery of draftsmanship with extreme details that are swept away wonderful movements that tie the composition together. Especially within his “tattoo” prints, depicting men decorated with intricate colorful tattoos in the act of bravery or action. Within the image shown Kuniyoshi shows his craftsmanship in both the fine details of the figure such as his tattoos which could be another work of art. He also pays great attention to the overall movement behind and in front of the figure, with the powerful waves of water coming from behind, the arrows coming into the frame and the breaking of the cage. Most likely Kuniyoshi was just a designer who drew the imagery, but for the detail that comes through the wood cutters who worked on these prints are of a godly variety. The graphic look within Japanese prints are achieved through cutting both sides of a line and focus on having a copy of the drawing on a block, compared to the reduction methods of western prints. Even though the look of Kuniyoshi’s prints are not as realistic as western artists like Durer, the quality and handling of line work is much more demanding and impressive, it really shows through on small details.