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My trip to Japan in 2016 was life-changing. The moment I left that magical country, I vowed to return. My trip for 2020 was cancelled due to COVID-19, like so many other plans.

I recommend the wonderful book, “The Colors of Japan“, by Sadao Hibe, published in 2000. Hibi presents historical information, along with gorgeous photos, that explore red, blue, brown, green, purple, black and white, gold and silver. The section about blue, is of particular interest to me. I have applied various blue pigments in my works. It’s fascinating to learn about the history of Japanese cloth dyeing technique. Deep navy blue indigo-dyed cloth was probably the most widely used color in Japan before the twentieth century. This deep blue color was also commonly used with white in ceramics and painting.

Hibe wrote that Japanese artists embraced Prussian Blue when it was introduced by Dutch traders in the 1760s. The color was accidentally discovered in 1704 by a German paint manufacturer, who had been attempting to make a red, as described in “The Secret Lives of Color“. 

The Japanese ruling class, or shogunate, issued an edict in 1841 that forbade the creation of polychrome prints. Thus the style of indigo and blue tone wood block prints developed to a very sophisticated level. Hokusai’s “Thirty-Six View of Mt. Fuji” was specially reprinted in the style.

Leilani Norman

Author Leilani Norman

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