Learn about ukiyo-e woodblock! Definition, history, famous artists and prints

What is a “ukiyo-e”? An introduction to Japanese woodblock printing

Ukiyo-e  (pronounciation:uː.ˈki.oʊ.ˌeɪ, uːˌkiːjəʊˈeɪ. 浮世絵 in kanji) is essential field in Japanese art . The art never developed without the common people of the Edo Period.

 


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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.

Three beauties of the present day
Three beauties of the present day

 

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.

 

 

 

Naniwa-ya Okita

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 Chushingura (47 ronin)

 

 


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The Famous ukiyo-e Artists list

Hishikawa Moronobu(?-1694)

Suzuki Harunobu(1725-1770)

Torii Kiyonaga(1752-1815)

Katsukawa Shunsho(1726?-1743)

Kitao Shigemasa(1739-1820)

Kitagawa Utamaro(1753?-1806)

Toshusai Sharaku(?-?)

Katsushika Hokusai(1760-1849)

Utagawa Toyokuni(1769-1825)

Utagawa Kunisada(the third Toyokuni)(1786-1865)

Utagawa Hiroshige(1797-1858)

Utagawa Kuniyoshi(1797-1861)

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi(1839-1892)

Kobayashi Kiyochika(1847-1915)

Yoshida Hiroshi(1876-1950)

Kawase Hasui(1883-1957)

 


 

 

 

 

 


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