Ukiyo-e (浮世絵, lit. "pictures of the floating world") is a style of painting, but is more commonly associated with a type of woodblock print art that became popular in Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries. The art form arose in the metropolitan culture of Edo (Tokyo) during the second half of the 17th century, originating with the single color works of Moronobu Hishikawa.
Ukiyo-e prints were made using the following procedure:
- The artist produced a master painting
- Craftsmen traced the painting, producing a paper template for each color
- Templates were glued to woodblocks and the blocks were carved through the paper.
- Woodblocks were sequentially impressed onto paper. After impressing all woodblocks, the final print were obtained.
Ukiyo-e were a relatively cheap way of making many images. They were meant for mainly townsmen, who weren't rich enough to buy an original painting. The original subject of Ukiyo-e was city life, in particular activities and scenes from the entertaintainment district. Beautiful courtesans and actors would be portrayed while engaged in appealing activities. Later on landscapes
also became popular.
Ukiyo-e were a source of inspiration for many European impressionist painters.
The most important Ukiyo-e artist are:
Sample Ukiyo-e are available on pages of individual artists.