Everything Old is New Again

The Ephemera Assemblyman blog recently posted a gallery of postcards from the Russo-Japanese War. The prints are rooted in ancient history, were produced in the early 20th century, and yet the imagery is strikingly fresh:


The collection comes from MIT’s Visualizing Cultures. That site also includes Throwing Off Asia, a series of web-essays in which John W. Dower discusses the use of woodblock prints as propaganda during Japan’s wars with China and Russia.

woodblock A

You may remember that this project caused controversy in 2006, when the most gruesome of these propaganda images were deemed racially insensitive by some MIT students (the controversy was subsequently resolved as a misunderstanding).

Russo-Japanese War woodblock one

In Old Media, New Enemy, Dower described the “fizzle” of the woodblock print as a propaganda vehicle: “Their time had passed. They had abruptly become obsolete as a vehicle for visualizing the contemporary world.”

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Categories: Artwork, Print-related, Resources

3 Responses to “Everything Old is New Again”

  1. christine says:

    that top image is incredible!

  2. jasonurban says:

    I have to agree with Christine. That’s a beauty!

  3. Dan Judge says:

    If you like that top image, check out the book “Art of the Japanese Postcard.” MFA Boston had a show full of postcard prints a couple years back, including that first image, and the prints were amazing. The book was produced as a catalog for the show. Filled to the brim with print-goodness.