Ukiyo-e: The Japanese art of floating pictures
Ukiyo-e generally means the "Pictures of the Floating World," which refers to a style of Japanese woodblock print and painting from the Edo period depicting famous theater actors, beautiful courtesans, traveling the romantic landscapes, city life, and erotic scenes. It is the Japanese art that flourished from the 17th through the 19th centuries. In Edo Japan, It's commonly said that anyone could own a masterpiece Ukiyo-e print for about the price of a bowl of noodles. By the 17th century, while this claim oversimplifies, Ukiyo-e printmakers indeed innovated centuries-old woodblock text printing techniques to create colorful picture prints that were distributed widely for popular consumption. Ando Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Toyokuni III, and Keisai Eisen are some of the greatest Japanese artists of their time became known primarily as woodblock print designers in the Ukiyo-e style. Ukiyo-e printmakers also began to focus on landscape, creating series such as Hokusai's famed Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, in the 19th century.
The first work to be done in the style were the screen paintings. Aspects of the entertainment quarters (euphemistically called the "floating world") of Edo (modern Tokyo) and other urban centers were depicted by these paintings. By including common subjects famous courtesans and prostitutes, kabuki actors and well-known scenes from kabuki plays, and erotica. Wood-block prints were more important than screen paintings, and ukiyo-e artists being the first to exploit that medium. Every day a new interest in the urban world and its market motivated the swift development of ukiyo-e prints designed for mass consumption. As the first master of ukiyo-e, Hishikawa Moronobu is generally accredited. By Okumura Masanobu, the transition from single- to two-color prints was made. Polychrome prints using numerous blocks were introduced by Suzuki Harunobu, in 1765. In the works of Utamaro, Hokusai, and Hiroshige The essence of the ukiyo-e style was embodied.
For ukiyo-e works, the people and environments in which the higher classes emerged themselves became the popular subjects. The word Ukiyo-e is originated by combining uki for sadness and yo for life, and originally reflected the Buddhist concept of life as a transitory illusion, involving a cycle of birth, suffering, death, and rebirth.
On Japanese screens or scrolls, Ukiyo-e prints were often depicted, lending to their narrative feel. Although different artists brought their signature styles. To become known as its primary motifs, many subgenres blossomed beneath ukiyo-e's artistic umbrella. Across the seas to Europe and America with the opening of trade between the countries, Ukiyo-e was one of the first forms of Japanese art that found its way.
Ukiyo-e's as defined in the beginning, by a collaborative four-person woodblock printing process, the movement's artists would soon come to revolutionize the creative use of printing through experimentations with the material, color, mineral, and line to become an ancient forebear to the country's contemporary art movements such as Superflat. For book illustrations, Ukiyo-e was often used but came into their own as single-sheet prints. Much like modern-day pulp fiction, they played a role and due to rapidly increasing levels of literacy, became extremely popular among the middle class. There are some still working to keep the art form alive today, although the golden age of ukiyo-e is long since passed. English-born Canadian Dave Bull is among them, and probably the one doing the most to bring this form of art the outside world.