The Floating World at War

Cartoon historian Mark Bryant explores the visual satire emanating from both sides of the conflict between Russia and Japan in the first decade of the 20th century.

In chronicling the events of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 – seen by many as the first modern war – the belligerent nations drew on two great graphic traditions. In Japan these were the famous prints of actors and courtesans known as ukiyo-e (Pictures of the Floating [or Passing] World), which originated in the seventeenth century and whose later masters included Hokusai, Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, Utamaro and others. In Tsarist Russia the tradition was that of the lubok, a brightly coloured popular print (often including an explanatory text in verse) and dating back to the eighteenth century. However, by the middle of the nineteenth century, artists from both countries had begun to be influenced by European cartoons and caricature.


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