Who is the Artist of my Vintage Japanese Print?

The Plum Garden in Kameido 100 Famous Views of Edo Utagawa Hiroshige

OK, so you have a beautiful Japanese woodblock print in your hands, and you swear it is of great importance and value.  The colors are gorgeous, the subjects is interesting, but you are baffled because you are at a loss to determine its maker, year, title, etc.  Well, check out the following guide for everything you need to know to get more info on your gorgeous print.

  1. Look for a signature: The artist’s signature is usually found in the bottom right or left corner of the print. It can be a full name, initials, or a monogram. If you find a signature, try searching for the artist’s name on the internet to learn more about their work.
  2. Check the back of the print: Sometimes, the back of the print can provide valuable information about the artist. Look for any labels, markings, or stamps that may identify the artist or provide clues about the origin of the print.
  3. Do some research: If you don’t find any signature or markings on the print, try doing some research online. You can search for the title or subject of the print, along with any information about the era or style of the artwork. This can help you find information about the artist or other prints by the same artist.
  4. Consult with an art expert: If you are unable to identify the artist on your own, you may want to consult with an art expert. An art appraiser or a specialist at a museum or gallery may be able to help you identify the artist and provide more information about the value and history of the print.  We are here to help, email us:  [email protected].

What about the seal?  The seal is often times a good indicator of the Japanese woodblock print artist who made your print centuries ago.

  1. Seals and signatures on a Hokusai Surimono print

    Look at the seal’s position and color: The seal is typically located in the lower right-hand corner of the print, and the color of the seal can provide some clues about its age. Red seals are more commonly used in older prints, while black or blue seals are more common in modern prints.

  2. Identify the type of seal: There are several types of seals used in Japanese woodblock prints, including publisher’s seals, artist’s seals, and censor seals. The type of seal can provide some clues about the print’s origin and authenticity.
  3. Consult a reference book: There are several reference books available that can help you identify the seals on Japanese woodblock prints. Some popular books include “Marks of Genius: Masterpieces from the Collections of the Honolulu Academy of Arts” and “The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints.”

Lastly, with all this great knowledge at your hands from our wonderful guide, reference books, and your new-found expertise; reach out to us and we would be happy to help.  We have many tools to help you determine the maker, title, authenticity, and value of your Japanese woodblock print.  We also have archives of famous Japanese artists right here on jpwoodlbocks.com – search our archives and see if you can find a match.

A Lifetime original Kawase Hasui woodblock print with publisher seal along the lower right margin

Furthermore, we are coming out with the best tool of all – a new reverse image search tool to determine your print’s author, title, and matches in museum institutions around the world.  Our Japanese woodblock image search will soon launch and be a game changer when it comes to determining your print’s authenticity.  Once you determine how good your print is, list your print for sale with us on our platform.  We have the most dedicated buyers and sellers of Japanese woodblock prints in the world – with far lower fees than the major auction houses.  Buy and sell woodblock prints on your terms, with all of the knowledge you need right at your fingertips.

Check back on our website soon for our new Japanese woodblock print art search tool!  UPDATE:  It is now up and live!  You can search your Japanese woodblock print by image with our new tool here:  https://jpwoodblocks.com/search-your-print/

Currently, we have Hokusai, Hiroshige, Hiroshi Yoshida, Yoshitoshi archives up and ready for searching by image.  This is a reverse image search, which you can snap a photo with your phone and figure out the artist, title, and some history of your print.  We soon will be adding additional prints from major museums, rolling out over the next couple months.  Check back soon!

Best wishes and happy collecting.


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