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Woodcut prints had made a strong revival in Europe in the second half of the 19th century. Until then the technique was considered a medium for reproduction of old master drawing and painting. Following the fascination of numerous artists with Japanese prints which were being brought to Paris and other art centres, there was a movement toward using woodcut printing as an art form. The simplicity and uncomplicated use of colour and perspective of Japanese prints had also made a great impression on Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the members of the Societé, des Peintes-Graveurs founded in 1889, notably Auguste Lepére, Henri Riviére, Felix Bracquemond, Pierre Bonnard and James McNeil Whistler were highly influential in this movement. Felix Vallotton worked almost exclusively in making woodcut prints. In parallel with this movement, Orlik had been working on his own early highly individual style of woodcut printing. It was during his first visit to Paris that he became more aware of the Japonisme style used by the French artists and this led to his decision to travel to Japan to learn the technique at first hand. Although Japanese art had made a huge impact on European art since around the eighteen seventies, few, if any European artists had visited the country

In March 1900 Orlik made his first journey to Japan, spending eleven months constantly sketching and learning the techniques of woodblock cutting and printing. Every aspect of Japanese life interested him, as attested by the work he did there. Even before his arrival in the country he had began to learn the language and it was not long before he was able to explore Tokyo on his own, without the use of a guide. He saw collections of prints by Utamaro and Horoshige which heightened his understanding of the art. Within four months of his arrival his Japanese was proficient enough for him to be able to communicate freely with the artisans with whom he was working. He sent home a stream of letters to his friend Max Lehr relating his experiences. He went hiking alone through the countryside as far as Kyoto, a very adventuresome undertaking for a foreigner in those days.

He took very many of the woodblocks and etching plates which he made in Japan back to Europe with him. By February 1901 he had already sent a selection of woodcuts and lithographs to Max Lehr in Dresden for an exhibition so there was an eager public awaiting his return home with more. In 1904 the Aus Japan portfolio appeared, published by Orlik himself. It contained 15 exquisite colour lithographs and etchings. Some were printed in Japan, others he completed in Vienna. This set is now extremely rare. The colour woodcut Japanishe Pilger auf dem Weg zum Fujiyama (Japanese Pilgrims on the way to Mount Fuji is one of the finest examples of ‘Japonisme’ he made

In 1923 F. Bruckmann in Munich published the portfolio Reise nach Japan (Journey to Japan) containing 12 etchings which illustrated scenes from his point of embarkation in Genoa and ports of call on the journey – Ceylon, Singapore, and Hong Kong and included some of the best etchings he made in Japan.

There is a spontaneous nature to Orlik’s Japanese prints and paintings which reveal his joy in the work he was doing and his delight in the surroundings in which he was doing it. Some of his best depictions of mothers and their children were made in the Far East.