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 ukiyo-e 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 origin 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