Young Vietnamese artists draw inspiration from Japanese woodblock prints

Drawing inspiration from Japanese woodblock prints, a new generation of Vietnamese artists infuses their work with a personal flair, resulting in a captivating blend of Vietnamese and Japanese influences.


There are 38 artworks created by young Vietnamese artists currently on display at the Temple of Literature. These unique pieces are inspired by Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

The exhibition, titled “Dialogue with Japanese Ukiyo-e Woodblock Prints,” opened on January 23.

Originating from the Edo period (1615-1868), these vibrant woodblock prints depict various scenes from everyday life in Japan. Ukiyo-e, which translates to “pictures of the floating world,” refers to the licensed brothel and theater districts in Japan’s major cities during the Edo period.

The exhibition showcases 38 artworks by Vietnamese artists. Photo: Ngo Minh/The Hanoi Times

The ukiyo-e style emerged in 1765 and remained popular until the final decades of the Meiji period (1868-1912). While paintings by contemporary artists were only affordable for the wealthy, ukiyo-e prints were accessible to a wide audience, including commoners, as they could be produced relatively cheaply and in large quantities.

Initiated by artist and lecturer Nguyen The Son at Hanoi National University, the project “From Tradition to Tradition” brought together 34 young artists from Vietnam University of Fine Arts to create artworks inspired by ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

Their creations reflect the distinctive features of Vietnamese cultural life, expressed through the contemporary perspective of these young artists. They merged the inspiration and exploration of ukiyo-e woodblock prints with the quintessential values of traditional Vietnamese art, utilizing materials such as silk, lacquer, and poonah paper.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, artist Nguyen The Son, the exhibition’s curator, highlighted the artists’ unwavering dedication to promoting artistic practices inspired by Vietnam’s traditional cultural and artistic values, as well as those of other cultures.

“Engaging in tradition-inspired creativity serves as a driving force behind personal artistic creations, motivating today’s young artists to inherit the spirit of traditional art and further nurture their passion for artistic creativity,” Son stated.

Le Xuan Kieu, Director of the Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam Center for Cultural and Scientific Activities, shared that the exhibition aims to showcase the beauty and uniqueness of traditional Vietnamese art materials to a broad range of individuals, particularly the younger generation and international tourists.

Furthermore, it serves as an opportunity to introduce cultural products resulting from the exploration of traditional artistic values through transnational cultural dialogues.

The exhibition received professional support from various experts, including researcher and artist Tran Hau Yen The, visual artist Trieu Minh Hai, artist Pham Khac Quang, artist Tue Thu, artist Hong Nhung (Zó Project), and design artist Truong Thuy.

The exhibition will run until March 12 at the Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam Special National Monument.

 “The Village” – a lacquer painting featuring carving techniques by Nguyen Ha Anh.
“Three Beauties of the Present” – a lacquer painting by Le Thi Hai Yen.
“Student Meow Meow” by Pham Ngoc Ha and Bui Thao My.
“The Universe of Balance” – a lacquered wood sculpture by Nguyen Ha Anh.