Sharaku, 1794

The ukiyo-e genre of art flourished in Japan from the 17th to the 19th century. Its artists produced woodblock prints and paintings of such subjects as female beauties, kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers, scenes from history and folk tales, travel scenes and landscapes, flora and fauna, and erotica. The term ukiyo-e refers to pictures of the ukiyo or "floating world" of kabuki theatre, courtesans, and geisha of the pleasure districts. Images of this environment became successful in the 1670s with Moronobu's paintings and monochromatic prints of beautiful women. By the 1740s, artists such as Masanobu were using multiple woodblocks to print areas of colour. In the 1760s, with the success of Harunobu's "brocade prints", full-colour production of prints made with numerous blocks became standard. Portraits of beauties and actors by masters such as Kiyonaga, Utamaro, and Sharaku were prominent in the late 18th century. Masters from the 19th century include the bold formalist Hokusai, whose Great Wave off Kanagawa is one of the best-known works of Japanese art, and the serene, atmospheric Hiroshige, most noted for his series The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō. (Full article...

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