It is said that the beginning of the ukiyo-e, the Japanese art of woodblock printings, is the pictures of Kyoto people’s living in late 16th century.
After that, the themes of ukiyoe expanded to popular kabuki actors, beautiful women and landscapes. “ukiyo” （浮世） means contemporary with hedonisitic and fleeting idea, so ukiyo-e translated as picture of floating world.
The definition and evolution of ukiyo-e
The source of ukiyoe was Yamato-e (大和絵, traditional Japanese painting) but drew the line from the field of China art including the Kano School (狩野派). The ukiyo-e artist made the artworks for not the warrior (samurai) class but the ordinary middle class citizens.
So they basically created the paints for a woodcut to sell them in low price. Comparing other Japanese art, it is distinct charactheristic.
When we think about ukiyo-e, we just imagine a woodblock printing (版画, hanga). But it includes an original painting (肉筆画, nikuhitsu-ga). The famous ukiyo-e artists drew both for a woodblock printing and an original painting.
The Famous ukiyo-e Artists list