Genre: Magazine or book frontispiece (kuchi-e - 口絵)

Lifetime: circa 1890 - 1914

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Kuchi-e are woodblock-printed frontispiece illustrations produced for publication in Japanese novels and literary magazines at the turn-of-the-century. Many of the leading woodblock artists of the Meiji Period worked in this genre.

The primary subject matter of kuchi-e are bijin - "beautiful women". Kuchi-e reflect the romantic, idealised depiction of women that was evident throughout the history of Ukiyo-e, but the late-Meiji Period witnessed the development of a western influenced and more realistic style of graphic presentation.

Kuchi-e are approximately 22 x 29 cm in size and typically have two fold marks resulting from the manner in which they were inserted in publications. Many kuchi-e display deluxe printing techniques, including blind printing, the use of powdered metals and burnishing. These deluxe printings may have been, in part, a reaction against the newly-introduced photographic and lithographic printing processes which threatened the popularity of the traditional woodblock print.