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Thorne Art Gallery Exhibits Japanese Woodblock and American Letterpress Prints

KEENE, N.H. 10/3/03 - Japanese woodblock and American letterpress print exhibitions highlight different methods of printmaking this fall at the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College. “Ukiyo-e: Japanese Woodblock Prints” of everyday life in 18th- and 19th- century Japan opens Oct. 25 and runs through Dec. 7. “How the Ink Feels,” which opens Nov. 1 to Dec. 7, showcases American letterpress broadsides illuminating poetry and prose by such well-known writers as James Agee and Stanley Kunitz.

The Friends of the Thorne will host a reception for both exhibits on Friday, Oct. 31, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the gallery. The reception is free and open to the public.

Ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world,” refers to beautifully colored woodblock prints depicting scenes from everyday Japanese life, such as sumo wrestlers relaxing under umbrellas and a woman in a kimono washing her hands under an outdoor pump.

This exhibit, on loan from the University of New Hampshire Collection, is the centerpiece of the Friends of the Thorne’s education program for area school children, which runs Nov. 3-14. Art activities and guided tours for children in kindergarten through high school will be offered during this time. For information about this free program visit or call 603-358-2737.

Today, ukiyo-e prints are among the most revered and sought-after works of Japanese art. Pictures of beautiful women and kabuki theater actors were prominent subjects of the printmakers. Other prints illustrated courtly poetry and classical literature such as The Tale of Genji, among the greatest Japanese novels. These woodblock prints were made entirely by hand by a team of artists and craftsmen without the use of printing presses.

“How the Ink Feels” features 64 matted and framed letterpress broadsides, a printing process that has changed little since the Middle Ages. These prints also are collaborations among printers, writers, and artists, who may be printmakers, woodcut illustrators, calligraphers, or paper makers. For example, the broadside of Jane Hirshfield’s poem is on paper made by Karla Elling from grasses harvested by Jane on her property.

These broadsides look similar to pages of a large book with artwork and photos illustrating prose and poetry by four U.S. poet laureates and numerous other writers. Most of the images and words were printed using manually operated letterpresses, a process of printing from a raised ink surface. The broadsides are on loan from various sources to the Friends of William Stafford. Stafford (1914-93) is one of America’s most celebrated poets and was poetry consultant to the Library of Congress.

Keene State student intern Alison Davis offers guided tours through both exhibits at 3 p.m. every Sunday. Davis, a senior studio art major, was awarded the Thorne-Sagendorph/Art Department Student Fellowship Endowment. She gives tours when exhibits are open throughout the academic year. The tours are free and open to the public courtesy of Friends of the Thorne, and reservations are not required.

The gallery is open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday through Wednesday, and from noon to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The gallery closes Nov. 11 for Veterans Day and Nov. 25-30 for the Thanksgiving break. The gallery, located on Wyman Way, is open only when Keene State College is in session.

To request accommodations for a disability, please call the Thorne Gallery at least two weeks before your visit. For information, call 603-358-2720 or visit

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