Ukiyo-e is a style of print that was produced in the Edo Period. The term Ukiyo-e simply means, “pictures of the floating world.” Although it was also referred to as, “pictures of the sad world,” at a certain time, but it was dominated by, “pictures of the floating world,” because of the fact that Ukiyo-e was meant for entertainment not sorrow.(Fiorillo, Artelino, Wikipedia, Japan-Zone)
The early Ukiyo-e was really a type of painting and mainly used India ink. However, as time went by the idea of prints came into mind, thus Ukiyo-e changed from paintings to prints.
| |By Hokusai-Image credited to and permission granted by Jim Breen
Hishikawa Moronobu was known to be the first man to come up with the idea of using polychrome printing. Then later, the idea of using color also became a big theme for Ukiyo-e. Okomura Masanobu and Suzuki Harunobu were the first two people to start using colors to make Ukiyo-e. (Fiorillo, Artelino, Wikipedia, Japan-Zone)
Ukiyo-e was mainly meant for the townspeople who couldn’t afford paintings. Ukiyo-e was affordable because of the fact that it was easy to reproduce so it was place at a low price. At first, Ukiyo-e portrayed only wealthy courtesans, kabuki (Japanese Theaters) actors, and everyday life. The most common theme that Ukiyo-e portrayed was landscapes.
Although landscapes and kabuki actors were more common, political subjects were the least common. Later on, before the 20th century, prints were finally recognize as a form and was finally said to be worth collecting by higher-class people. Some of the famous Ukiyo-e artists during the Edo Period are Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806). (Fiorillo, Artelino, Wikipedia, Japan-Zone)
During the Meiji Period, after the Emperor was put back into power, Ukiyo-e changed. This event leads to the end of Ukiyo-e. As Japan’s Westernization Movement brought in new technology like photography, Ukiyo-e was going out of style. Today Ukiyo-e is still produced. Manga, the Japanese word for comics, is a modern form of Ukiyo-e. Manga is produced to look like the classical Ukiyo-e, black and white. Ukiyo-e, today, is still a big inspiration of Japanese culture.(Artelino, Wikipedia)