Japanese Art


UKIYO-E: Art of the Floating World

Note on Sources:    Unless specified it is best to assume the notes came from Lane and very well may be paraphrasing. Slide numbers reference the syllabus for Dr. Owen's Class. Sections on Michener are almost always directly written from the book.


Ukiyo-e (oo-key-yoh-eh, from here abbreviated as "u-e") is a hybrid school of painting and print design. U-e used basic themes of the day to day world and adopted classical methods to treat its subjects: parodies of classical Chinese and Japanese themes. It captured the hearts of the pubic and connoisseurs. It never had the prestige of the traditional schools.

Originally a Buddhist expression, Ukiyo, "this world of pain", "this transient unreliable world", etymologically, "this fleeting, floating world." During the 17th century Japanese Renaissance (Edo Period 1600-1868), the term took on hedonistic connotations of the newly evolved stylish world of pleasure. Popularization of art. c1661 Ryoi's Ukiyo Monogatari (Tales of the Floating world) quote p 11 in Lane. 1680: u-e added pictures of everyday life to stereotyped themes and moved towards the subject of workaday modern life. Uki = float and grief, yo = world, e = picture.

The addition of "-e" means pictures. Not all Ukiyo-e was wood-block prints; there are many ukiyo-e paintings as well. U-e brought best of classical Japanese art into the new age. U-e masters include Moronobu, Harunobu, Utamaro, Sharaku, Hokusai, Hiroshige. 2/3 of the subject matter during the 17th and 18th centuries was the pleasure quarters and kabuki theater. Much of 19th century u-e is landscapes.

History and religion widely read in medieval Japan but handmade scrolls with color illuminations limited in production. Printing known in Buddhist temples from China since 8th century. 12th century block prints of religious images. 11th-16th century Buddhist sutras and literary texts printed but literary audience too small to cover cost of mass printing.

In 1590 the first non religious book printed: Setsuyo-shu, a dictionary of Japanese and Chinese terms in two volumes. Then legal codes and models for calligraphy books followed. By 1600 100,000 moveable wooden type blocks had been cut. Shogun leyasu printed political and historical publications. Suminokura Soan, Hon-ami Koetsu, and Saga Books. Ise Monogatari (Tales of Ise) of 1608. From 1620's employed the block printing method which increased production and decreased cost. 1650's brought exceptional quality of mass printing which did not improve until full scale color printing a century later. The illustrators are the godfathers of u-e prints.


From Lecture: Woods used include cherry (hard: most desirable in that it can make the thinnest lines but most difficult), magnolia, cercidiphllum and plywood. Assembly line, many people make these prints: designer, woodblock cutter, dyers, dryers, publishers. Later multi-block printing. Add black lacquer for shine on hair or eyes. Origins of woodblock printing in China and then Korea, then Japan. Japan explored the media of print much further.

Mineral (unstable) colors: orange comes from red lead and turns to a mild bluish black. Mineral green turns dark and eats the paper.


sumizuri-e - "ink print," plain black prints, one block, until about 1716.
tan-e - "red picture," early sumizuri-e that is colored by hand, mainly with red (lead), orange and green, sometimes yellow or lilac added, vegetable colors. Popular from 1660's to 1710's. Also in books: tan-roku-ban.
beni-e  - "red picture," sumizuri-e and colored red in vegetable colors such as orange, red, deep pink. mixed with glue.
aizuri-e - "blue print," repeated printings in shades of blue.
urushi-e - lacquer pictures," beni-e plus glue in pigments, giving them a lustrous appearance; "gold dust" (powered bronze or brass) and powdered mica sometimes added, from c. 1716
benizuri-e - "color prints," 2-4 color prints, from c 1744 on.
nishiki-e - "brocade" polychrome print from 1764/5 on. Unusual devices include karazuri ("empty printing," gauffrage) which consists of heavy embossing with a block to which no color is added. Karazuri is especially effective in depicting snow, waves, kimono patterns.
surimono - privately commissioned prints, often elaborately printed.


aiban    13'' x 9''
chuban    10" x 7 1/2"
hashira-e    28 3/4" x 4 3/4"
hosoban    13" x 5 5/8"
kakemono-e    30" x 9"
large/extra oban    22 3/4" x 12 1/2"
oban    15" x 10"
tanzaku    15" x 5"


Between the 9th and 16th Centuries


Momoyana Period Late 16th - Early 17th centuries

Gorgeous screens and panels with bold patterns of trees, animals, figures or still life, vivid colors, glowing ground of pure gold leaf. Displayed in castles which had dark interiors. Not the classical minituristic color harmonies of Tosa court painters or perceptive subtle monochrome imagery of Chinese inspired paintings. Traditional artists had to change to newly demanded style. New life to art brought out by uneducated warlords.

From syllabus: Genre painting with an emphasis on the native customs, activities and peoples of Japan, feature scenes in and around Kyoto, military exercises, horse training, hunting and cherry blossom viewing among others.

According to Yamane, the prints from this period are predecessors to u-e.

Hickman's book is a Momoyama Period Book from a Dallas exhibit. Screens, Laquerware, Calligraphy. Talks a lot about how Momoyama Period Began.

Edo Period (1600-1868)

Michener:    Tokugawa dictatorship governed Japan from 1603-1867. Population in 1603 20 mil. 1726 28 mil. By end of feudalism, about the same. Present (1957) is 88 mil. At thirty mil: noble and samurai 2 mil, farmers 21 mil, artisans 5 and merchants 2 mil. Politics of the time p. 18.

From Lecture:    Edo is the up and coming city, rivaling Kyoto.

Class Rank:

1)    The Lords:    150 families of no political importance attached to the Emperor's court in Kyoto. 300 daimyo families of great importance and responsible to the Tokugawa shogun (barbarian-subduing generalissimo) who lived in Edo.
2)    Samurai:    Ruled politics and arts of fashion and entertainment. No longer warriors. Carried two swords. Drain on the economy, incompetent military force. Tragedy of the Tokugawa age. After which they moved into positions of leadership, opened factories, wrote books and became the backbone of the nation. Two subgroups, the hatamoto (banner knights) and the ronin (wave men). Mich p. 15.
3)    Farmers and Peasants:    Producers. Many instances when a farmers entire crop was taken and he was left to starve. Ideal farmer avoids marriage with a city woman, divorced his wife if showed signs of wandering, paid no attention to the money value of his rice, and lived just above the starvation minimum.
4)    Artisans:  They belonged to guilds.  
5)    Merchants:    Lubricated the economy. Had the most cash. They start to patron the arts (including fine art) and create the demand for woodblock prints. Cold carry two short swords. Love of good life.

Off the Scale: Immigrants, 'lost souls' (thieves, convicts), Buddhist and Shinto priests and nuns. Class change very very hard. Shameful for samurai to become artisans. Shinto-native faith: mans relationship to nature and reverence for spirits that dwell in trees, waterfalls etc.

Focus on the good life. Travel more convenient, roads built and improved. Increase income and increased leisure time. People move from farms into city. New group of townsmen. Call for new art from to satisfy their appetite.

Problems in Edo:    Natural disasters, famine, starvation, movement of people hurting the social and political structure, Isolationism from 1650-1850+, technological advances.

Kambun Period (1661-1673)

One full calendar cycle.

Tenna Period (1681-1684)

Genroku Period (1688-1704)

Kyoho Period (1716-1736)

Government sumptuary edicts to reduce the size and grandeur of prints. 1720's-40's bring about elaborate hand coloring which leads a generation later to full color nishiki-e, brocade prints. The coloring was done by a separate master in the style of miniature laquerware. Colors still vivid, sparkle. For example a pink pine tree with mustard yellow, olive green and red needles. Decline from the Renaissance of late 16th century culminating in the Genroku era. This was in part due to the 8th Tokugawa Shogun Yoshimune who ruled from 1716-1745. Serious financial difficulties of the country brings a return to the ideals of a simple austere life. Lane quotes the edicts of 1721 p. 74-6. The rising heritage of a reborn culture was preserved but did slow in the 20's and 30's.


Mid 16th Century:    Civil wars. Hideyoshi, a peasant's son, the de facto ruler of the empire. Feudal lords ignorance of Chinese literature and philosophy of Muromachi shoguns. Their money fled to architects and painters to look rich and bold. The starving artist is a contemporary concept in Japan.

Michener: Ieyasu, before he became the first Tokugawa shogun was given as his feudal fief the lands of eastern Japan and he selected as his daimyo's capital, not ancient town of Kamakura, once the capital of Japan, but an insignificant town called Edo, a village of one hundred houses, a marsh.

1590:    Non religious books printed in Japan, a bit late.

Around 1600:    Japan unified.

1603:    The Tokugawas gain control of Japan and name Edo the capital. A castle was rebuilt on a small hill. The town had burned down in 1602. Residential areas near modern Kanda and the Yasukuni Shrine, a business area near Nihonbashi (Japan Bridge)

Early 17th century:    Shoguns cut off contact with the world in fear of encroaching colonialization, and to maintain a balance between dozens of feudal barons. Sakoku (national seclusion policy). This created a unique period of peace in the world's history. Isolation and peace for 2 1/2 centuries. Emperor left behind in Kyoto as a ritual figurehead and the capital moved to Edo which is now called Tokyo.

1629:    Authorities banned all female performers from the stage for 2 1/2 centuries.

After 1630's:    Travel outside of Japan punishable by death. Boys married in puberty.

1638:    37,000 Christian converts herded into a remote spot and slaughtered.3

1652:    Only grown men, shaved of forelocks could perform so that there was no doubt of their sex.

1657:    Bathhouses banned. Great fire in Edo. 2-3 years later the city came back. Fires destroying the Yoshiwara not uncommon throughout its history.

1690's:    Low point for u-e.

1721:    Edicts to restrict u-e. Censors and controls to protect the print industry, tax it, and make it more difficult to print. Regulations on what colors to use, etc.

1722:    Subject matter limited, how many colors you can use, just gets more popular.

1789:    Feudal government restricts luxuries.

1854:    Americans forced opening of Japan which now missed the European Renaissance and the Age of Scientific Discovery but was in time for the Industrial Revolution. This marked the end of old Japan and u-e.

1856:    Restoration of the Emperor to the throne. Japan reopens.

1867:     Revolt of outside lords against the Tokugawa shogun.



See Edo Period above. Present day Tokyo.

The main pleasure quarter in Japan is in Edo, called Yoshiwara. Oil Street runs East West through the middle of Edo and is the commercial heart. Several great publishers of u-e prints born here.1660: Yoshiwara-makura (Yoshiwara Pillow) Earliest and finest books. Sex manuals and courtesan critiques (yujo hyobanki). 48 page illustrations of the 48 sexual positions.

Assembled in 1617. The petition to the state, Mich p. 42. Burnt down 1657 completely along with most of Edo. Moved to its present location. At its height: 153 houses, 3269 courtesans and 394 tea rooms. Its own dialect developed and many phrases later passed into polite conversation. No swords for fear imprisoned girls would kill themselves. Judges sentenced girls to the district, parents could sell their daughters and husbands could sell wives. rascals could kidnap children or adopt orphans. Etc. p. 44. Fellowship of intellectuals, books circulated more widely there than the rest of Japan. Men whose thought was modifying national life made the Yoshiwara their bohemia.

In twenty years the pop was 150 thou, by 1700 more than a half million and by 1787 over a mil and a quarter. See timeline. See Michener Ch. 4. Unplanned collection of autonomous communities connected by winding footpaths widened into streets. Imported large quantities of fine wares, books and genteel courtesans from Kyoto and produced mainly quantity goods of mediocre quality.


Royalty. Center of literature and poetry. The pleasure quarter is called Shimabara. From 9th century, a major center of Japanese religion and tradition. Everyday a Shinto festival, court ceremony, or Buddhist rite.

U-e originated with Kyoto scrolls and screens while popular prints were the product of Edo. Often in early u-e it was the high Kyoto artists who blazed the trail only to later be outstripped by Edo masters who were less convention bound. Edo prints did not make an impression on Kyoto or Osaka whose patrons preferred paintings and comprehensive picture books. Outside Buddhist treatises, first important printed illustrated books were those in Kyoto in the beginning of the 17th century. Reprints of classics which expressed the tastes and ideals of a new age: love stories, travel, practical information and the affairs of commoners in the big city.

The Onwen Revolt took down Kyoto?

Copied after the orderly lines of an antique Chinese metropolis3


The pleasure quarter is called Shimmachi.


The pleasure quarter is called Maruyama.



Illustrated some of his own books. "He imbues his figures with a living power that often makes up for his technical defects." (Lane)


Narazaki talks about five different types of theater.

Entertainers from Michener Ch. 4. Fukai Shidoken, ex Buddhist priest, wanders as a beggar picking up stories and then begins to perform in the streets of Asakusa, Edo. Used a huge wooden phallus that he would pound as he told his obscene tales. In 1763, over 80 years of age, his friends published a book to pay for his sake. When he was passing from the scene, Dohei entered from Sendai from the north. A huckster who sold rice jelly. Conspicuous dress. Roamed the Edo streets chanting songs which live on in children's games. Then Tanikaze (Valley Wind) appears, the greatest wrestler who ever lived. Born 1751 to a poor farmer in north Japan. Moved to Edo standing over 6 feet tall and 365 pounds, before he got heavy. Won 183 of 220 matches including a 63 match win streak. His portrait appeared in many u-e prints.

As popular as they were, the theater actors who would perform for 12 hours, and tickets were inexpensive - kabuki.


13th century narratives of heroic or passionate action recited by professional chanters. One story which excelled was the tragedy of Yoshitsune and Princess Joruri. The account of her suicide became generic for such narratives: joruri, in which the deeply moving dramas of Japanese life were remembered.


In Osaka a puppeteer joined forces with a joruri chanter and a skilled master of the samisen (a banjo-like musical instrument introduced to Japan from Okinawa in 1560.) Puppets were ideal for acting out joruri. Some of the most skilled writers wrote dramas for dolls.

Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1725) produced more than 100 plays. A theatre comparable to that of Aeschylus and Shakespeare built for puppets. Other fine dramatists: Ki no Kaion who told of a girl who burnt down Edo for love.


By 15th century ancient religious dances, mask dances (largely imported from mainland Asia) and strong, rough earthy dances from the countryside had been combined by the 15th century into stately and powerful Noh. The word means skill, faculty, power, it has come to mean a lyric drama. Kabuki draws from the same sources and Noh approached the later Kabuki style with rollicking farce interludes to break up the otherwise austere quality of the Noh.


Originated late 16th century. Combo of classical Noh theater, Shinto and popular dances and pantomimes. Open air, rather impromptu, also had fairly matured by early 17th century. Kyoto's was the most luxurious. U-e is a major source of information on the Kabuki theater for us today.

Michener: available to kabuki: the classic grandeur of Noh, the comedy of farce interludes, vigor of rural dancing, samisen of Okinawa, dramatic use of the human voice as practiced by joruri chanters and the fine plays of the puppet theater. The actors imitated not life but puppetry. Kabuki added the most dazzling costuming and a big theater stage which the people of Edo loved.

Famous actors: Nakamura Shichisaburo, Ichikawa Danjuro I, Danjuro II, Sanogawa Ichimatsu, and Danjuro V. (Mich p. 39)

Three hundred plays dealing with the Soga brothers who are looking to revenge their murdered father, but repeatedly fail.

Issue of noble women slipping into theaters to see actors. Theaters burnt down with notorious regularity.

Shortly after 1600, (15863) O-Kuni, a young Shinto Princess from the Izumo Shrine, formed a small troupe in Kyoto to perform popular dances and mimes on the east bank of the River Kamo. Kabuki at first implied "curious, disorderly persons." Taken up by courtesans. Okuni and her performers would perform all day and then provide sex at night.

1629:    Authorities banned all female performers from the stage for 2 1/2 centuries.

Onna Kabuki (Women's Kabuki) turns into Wakashu Kabuki (Young Men's) and the sex afterwards also continues.

1652:    Only grown men, shaved of forelocks could perform so that there was no doubt of their sex.

By end of 17th century acting more on talent than looks. Elaborately stylized realism as it is today.

Kabuki dance shows off the folds and sleeves of the costume, not as interested in the movement of the body. Musicians are on stage. Highly stylized. Tokyo Kabuki Theater has two performances a day almost 365 days a year. Statue like posing. Walking ceremoniously. 50lb costumes.

Narazaki says kabuki actors are considered outcasts of the government social structure in terms of purpose to society, but they are popular to common people and middle class. Not much written about the lives of these actors or the print designers for that matter.


Courtesans and actors are parasitic outcasts to the feudal government while idols of the masses and bourgeoisie. First they were patronized by the samurai as a part of their glamorous lives. After the mid 17th century townspeople could afford the pleasure and romance of courtesans. Samurai found themselves with less cash than the prosperous merchant class.

Forcing yourself on a courtesan and you will be labeled a yabo, a crude bore, laughing stock of the pleasure quarter.

Full development of courtesan quarters in the 1630's and 40's: government licensed.

From lecture: sumo wrestling, gambling, etc. going on. Price lists, records remain, this was legal activity.


Native Painting - based on Chinese models. Yamato-e (pictures from the old world) Native subjects for Japan emphasized gorgeous coloring and plasticity of contour

Semi-Chinese Style - more linear, highly varied, several sources of inspiration, prominent school of Zen ink-painters led by Buddhist Sesshu, boldly simplified monochrome, Chinese subjects.


Classical period had only occasional glimpses of peasant life. Medium of classical age is picture scrolls, 3-5 centuries before u-e. See genre painting examples during Momoyana Period p 12-3 Lane:

Without the background of classical painting, u-e may have only been folk art and not gone beyond Otsu-e. U-e came into its own in the early decades of the 17th century; the beginning of the Edo Period. Traditionally art is storytelling where the overall scene is important, not the details of human form. This is much unlike the Greeks.


Unified the two main styles. Favorite of the military rulers: shoguns and daimyo. Of the classical schools, most influential on the development of u-e from 17th to mid 19th centuries.

Michener:    Chinese in character, although stressing black and white painting, had developed a brilliant palette including much gold leaf. Emphasized landscape and depended upon the shogun patronage in Edo. Kano school artists also did genre painting for relief from the tediousness of their official Chinese type work. Depicted the common people in a multitude of vivid endeavors. Two masterpieces: the Hikone screen and a panel called Yuna (six yuna, or bathhouse girls)

Slide 1:    Yellow Arial view of Kyoto, imperial palace, golden pavilion, pagodas. Accurate view, somewhat multi-view of Buddhist shrines, of a building, more detail, festival scenes, seasonal event, seasons often depicted in a painting, religious festivals, urban scenes, the floats are labeled in writing, menial labor, having fun, performances, dance. Materials: Screens: lacquer frames mounted with paper painted on the back with red, gold plated on front. Mineral, vegetable and charcoal.

Slide 2:    Maple viewing near a Temple. Yin side on right: women, breastfeeding, Yang side on left, over a bridge, someone playing music on the bridge, men dancing, laughing. Charming happy scene. Shogun ate in middle, dim section.

Concept of Space: Implied that top is stuff far away, the landscape is tipped up so you can see it. Even time, winter, is in the top left corner. A bit cartoon like in expression, portraits not important some nudity, rare at this point.

Slide 3:    Spring, 3rd month. On right, samurai exercising.

Slide 4:    Arrival of foreigners which began 1542. Shows a Christian mass. Big nose round eyed people. Foreign women not allowed in the country. St. Francis Xavier spoke Japanese. Abstract Christian thoughts, only in couple ports, not free to move about the country.

Imported art. Zen ink paintings 12-13th centuries? From Korea. Jesuits brought Christian icons, samurai would collect  up imported art (The new protection of the country?)

Had a monopoly for couple hundred years, squeezed out the other schools. Characteristics: use of gold leaf, big, loud, colorful, bombastic painting, microscopic in detail, telescopic in design and color. Traditional Japanese scenes of birds flowers and the four seasons.

U-e stems from Kano and native based subjects and continental Chinese style.

Narazaki:    Machi-eshi, town painters as predecessors of u-e.


Led by Mitsunori (1583-1638). Traditions carried on by Nara-e, a semi popular style. Late 16th century Tosa is charming. Tosa school painters for the imperial court gradually declined, as did patrons. The school moved from Kyoto to the port of Sakai in turbulent 16th century.

Michener:    Patronized by the hereditary Emperor, a virtual prisoner in Kyoto. From Japanese tradition but in Moronobu's time had become ingrown and lacking in vitality. It stressed figure painting and narratives related to literary classics. (22)


Slide 5:    I thought this was Kano, but Owen said it was not. Women in everyday activities. Fl`t gold background, denies space, pushes women into our space. No moral, no story, nearly life-sized. Exquisite unique kimonos, faces not specific, natural, women function to show the kimonos, artist may have been a kimono designer, fashion how to for women, for men: pin up girls, shows inside of kimono, hot. Upper class women blackened their teeth with beetle nut and iron filings. Trickled down to the lower classes.

Slide 6:    Opi sash tied in front, we have moved into the Edo period. Clothes disheveled. Aspect of entertainment - drop in class. No background but figures occupy a space, show depth, motion in space.

Slide 7:    Okuni - gathered performers and preformed outdoors to large crowds during the day, sex at night - Kabuki. Tiger skin- very rare and exotic, on a chair, imported. No chairs in Japan.

Slide 8:    Single female dancers, gold background, 6 fold screen, kimono, swaying lines, flow of fabric, traditional dance, combine traditional and modern entertainment, so good example of the progression into the new style.

Slide 9:    Male geisha

IWASA MATABEI (1578-1650)

Influence seen a generation later. Did big 5 to 12 foot screens, scenes from Kyoto Streets. Recorded the everyday Shinto festivals, court ceremonies, and Buddhist rites in Kyoto. He later turned to views of artisans and their goods, and then Kabuki theater.

Fan of a samurai.

KAN-EI PERIOD (1624-1644/5)

More focus on leading figures, dancing girls, actresses, bathhouse girls, courtesans and their lovers. Distinguishes u-e, central theme two decades of Japanese popular print. No signatures.

Four examples in Lane.


Dr. Owen does not agree with Michener that Otsu-e fits into the evolution of u-e. Lane mentions Otsu-e.

Michener Chapter One:    People bought Otsu-e to decorate their homes and in obedience to religious superstition. Prudent for everyone to have a picture of Buddha in their window.. After 1680 the pictures become less religious.


A new style appears in Edo illustration. Books had dates and publisher info but no artists name. There seems to be one central artist who influences his contemporaries and the next generation master: Moronobu, a direct or indirect pupil of the Kambun Master.

Tanroku-bon (orange and green books) Slight hand coloring, tan-e. Among most treasured u-e. This style predominates through 1750 and also harkens back to Otsu-e.

Lecture:    Mass produced, cheap, hairstyle tells the sex. 1660's: Woodblock print: detail in clothes carries over from painting in design but pattern not respecting anatomy.

Slide 10:    One of the foundations. Bold, crisp, clean lines.

Slide 11:    Same artist, smudge is probably green before oxidation. Simple bold, geometric. 1st of shunga, spring picture, dozen or so grated to XXX.

Slide 12:    Small in size, ads of leading courtesans, hand made, marketable.

Slide 13:    Yoshiwara scene, critiques of the courtesans, earliest dated woodblock print. Nude samurai being pulled by a maid while he is engaged with a courtesan. Graphic pattern and bold design.

Narazaki:    Beautifully illustrated. 1st book in English done by a Japanese scholar. Evolution of the print. 770 AD 1st woodblock prints - Buddhist Tocoran? Book, then Adori (ador-e?) Ban. The primitives end with benizuri-e.


Girls and courtesans with lovers as subject which moves into individual portraits of women. U-e establishes romantic love scenes as subject matter. Some exotic scrolls early as 12th century, but not as a genre. Shunga or "Spring Pictures" is the Japanese term for erotica.

Mid 17th century, the center moves to Edo from Kyoto. Edo artists are free to create a new style. Patrons in Edo want cheaper artwork. Smaller prints, not screens which bring Edo worldwide renown.

1660's: Paintings often mounted as Kakemono - vertical scroll hung in the alcove of a Japanese house, and rolled up for storage. Shikishi (meaning colored papers) and poem cards.

Question calling these artists "The Primitives" Lane: "The period of the Primitives" is misleading in fact, "The only opening left to the ingenuity of later artists was in novelty of background, coloring and design." (32)

Tradition goes back to ancient Horyuji frescoes.

Beginnings are Yogu? - folding screen - depict early kabuki actors.

1650's - 1660's    Samurai yet to dissipate vitality but townsmen realizing an increase in power, yet to abuse it. Aristocracy and intellectual audience keeps increasing the standards of ancestors despite popularization. Pop culture still reflects traditional aesthetics. Technical skill is perfected. Four centuries of woodblock printing of Buddhist and Chinese texts. Japanese handmade paper finest in the world.

Traditional contributions to line, space and coloring.

Line:    Horyuji frescoes in the 8th century with their glowing line and absorbed subtle influences of 15th century Zen ink paintings both matched with the fresh stimulus from the resistance of hardwood boards to the engraving knife.

Spacing and design:    Tradition of arts and crafts.

Coloring:    Tradition to beginnings of Japanese painting unique from China and Korea.

Prints designed as prints, not reproductions of paintings. Abandoned elements of painting not better accomplished by woodblocks: developed methods paint could not achieve.

Late 1660's figures become more rounded and bolder. Sex scenes in bathtubs and on hobby horses. Subjects move also to great past warriors and present Kabuki actors.


From Syllabus:    Born Hoda on the far side of Edo Bay1, in the Awa province (Shikoku), son of a dryer and embroiderer. To Edo c. 1658, studied Tosa, Kano and Hasegawa painting. Paintings from c1670, mostly of bijin (beautiful women) and bustling city life. Illustrated books dated as early as 1672. Fifty-nine signed books, over 100 attributed to him.

Michener Chapter 3:    The typical woodblock artist in four ways: Raised in an ordinary background. Self taught. Understood the major Japanese schools: Kano, Tosa and genre. Edo man. Called himself the "Sparrow of Edo" Enjoyed introducing many human figures, each drawn individualistically, against landscape backgrounds, in which he excelled. The story content of his art was high. (23) It is also possible but not proved that Japanese artists studied Jesuit religiots engravings introduced by European missionaries prior to 1610. Four formats: illustrated books with predominating pictures; big illustrated albums with no text; big single sheets; and single sheets colored by hand to provide cheap substitutes. The later was his happiest innovation, but he did not sign any. Most famous album Yoshiwara no Tei (Scenes form Yoshiwara)

Special ability for historical scenes. He was Edo's Plutarch. His weaknesses: cluttered backgrounds, maybe the woodcutters could not keep up with him. Later artists will develop a line with more poetic sweep. Lacks color sense, probably colored very few of his own prints.

P. 30 He pioneered u-e and his stamp was apparent until the art died in 1860.

Lane:    In 1660 u-e had much of what it would until 100 years later but the style lacked a guiding genius, this would be Moronobu. He set u-e on its feet by consolidating scattered styles. Called the Consolidator.

His father was a famous embroiderer of rich tapestries for wealthy temples and high class patrons. M tutored in this skill and painting. Moved to Edo in late 1660's and moved to genre painting and illustration. He was trained in the Tosa and Kano schools and then mastered the Edo illustration style. By the mid 70's he had his own unique style. Not sure of his predecessors, much of the work of the Kambun master's work is attributed to M.

Plate 26 in Lane is his first work. He retains the elemental power of the Kambun Master while expanding its range with traditional knowledge, a restrained intensity. Solid line but primitiveness disappears. Earliest signed work 1672.

Plate 27 is an example of his dynamic group composition with each figure importance and adding to the total effect. Dramatic element of individuals' interaction. Sentient portraiture, dynamic magnetism. Masterful painter.

He is a master of Japanese book illustration. Only a few in America. Did 150+ extensive book illustrations in the 1670's and 1680s. 1/4 were erotic. Books were only a portion of his oeuvre. Did several dozen? single prints.

His early work's figures are evocative but austere and wooden moving towards his more lively dynamic style later. Designs and backgrounds in more detail than what we have seen before while figures retain a magnetic group composition. By late 70's his figures are rounder and fuller, an increased opulence of the coming Genroku Period (1688-1704).

In the 1680's most of his single sheet prints fully developed unique vision of male and female beauty which influenced the next 100 years of artists.

More than half of the large album sheets, and independent prints of the 17th century were erotica. Still expensive, this is what the public wanted. Usually issued in series of 12, bound as a folding album. The first couple semi erotic. This may have been done to fool censors. But they were more concerned about the spread of Christianity. Also thought to have been done to give a parent a picture to show his child if asked what he was reading. Mostly done to excite the viewer; entice him before more pornographic images followed. Albums had publisher and artists names when most books did not. Today many of those front pieces are in museums while the rest are held by collectors.


See also plate 29 and 30. Plate 33 of the year 1690 has a sense of character, a mental aspect.

Did first independent u-e prints, established the first u-e school with his studio in which he had pupils. Big guys of next generation were probably indirect pupils and did not work in his studio. Of his pupils of note are his son, Morotusa, and also Moroshige and Tomonobu (Ryusen). His son returned to kimono design and dyeing. The other students were occasional artists.

Slide 1:    Girl walking. No special setting just looks alive. Bent knees. Mask look goes back to Tale of Genji, but here a few small strokes give this girl a temperament. Traditional in its image against a gold background, enjoyment of fabric and texture for its own sake.

Narazaki: M gave energy and significance to every motion. Lane: he gave a depth and versatility, more drastic intimacy.

Slide 2:    Two of them, Yoshiwara street scenes, painting, peeping tom quality, from rooftops

Slide:    A behind the scenes of a Kabuki performance. Looked at two

Slide 3:    Set in a landscape. More, more, more in Moronobu. In a book which goes through the love affairs of this nobleman who is later exiled. Michener calls it cluttered.

Slide 4:    Scalloped top reminiscent of clouds in Kano school. Awkward angles goes back to 12th century Tale of Genji - painting.

Slide 5:    Singing line - vitality. Much not signed, intentionally not associated with these prints; made a lot of cash though. Fame, erotica, fantasy


Slide 6:    Lovers in a Garden: sword, phallic symbol. Faces, neck tilting indicate M

Slide 7:    Happy lovers, inside outside, bold overall pattern

Slide 8:    Young People Viewing Shunga scroll. A lesson going on, hair style, kimonos, rounded figures.

Yamane: Versatility, recaptured vital force of Momoyama, link to beautiful women, tradition. Bijin-ga : beautiful women pictures.


Syllabus:    The most prolific and successful of Moronobu's pupils. Illustrated books and single sheet prints (ichimae-e). Michener does not mention him.

Indirect pupil of Moronobu. They competed in the 1680's Derivative charms, lends a modern profoundly erotic flavor. 2/3rds of his output is erotica. Lack some intimacy. Finest work done in the 80's. When Moronobu retired, S degenerates.

Plate 36 in Lane: Coloring adds to the charm and sensuality unlike Moronobu's coloring. However Moronobu's coloring was usually not done by him?

His training may have been in u-e prints rather than painting and kimono patterns.

He is the most prolific and successful of Moronobu's direct followers but lacks the powerful, stark black line. He moves u-e away from linear strength and subtlety of mood, towards elaborate decorative coloring which does not help u-e. (Lane)

Many S named as Moronobu's in museums worldwide. S was not known by scholars until a few decades ago.

Lecture:    S was very successful. An artist would want his prints out the day after a show opens or a courtesan debuts.

Slide 9:    Samurai entered in surprise. S is master of sensuality.

Slide 10:    Strolling woman - hand colored, beautiful, complicated design. Tale of Genjii design in the kimono as well as the artists name. Knees bent.

Slide 11:    Symbols on gown make it hot by personalizing it, push buttons, me: probably indicate who they are

Slide 12:    Very bold. Engage you in an impulse buy. Explores human emotion, in this case jealousy. Me: a bit more subtle than that.


Three major anonymous illustrators created small format paintings? which held no interest to scholars or collectors.

Yoshida Hambei (worked 1664-1690)

Contemporary of Moronobu, he dominated the Kyoto and Osaka scene with over 100 books and several thousand illustrations which ranks him among Moronobu, Sukenobu and Hokusai as the most prolific u-e artists. Consistently adroit and talented, he does lack a certain degree of artistry.

Ladies Pictorial Encyclopedia If this had a greater issuing, or if the prints were offered as singles, Hambei would probably be considered on of the great masters today. He is only known to specialists. Ten of Saikaku's books were abundant with Hambei's and 10 other Kaikaku's display two of his anonymous pupils.

1690's - H's followers Shichirobei, Johak, O-Tsuna : Genzaburo: like Moronobu's direct pupils, they were not that good. This decade realized a low point for u-e.

1700 - Edo: Kiyonobu and Masanobu. Kyoto: incorporate some of the Edo vigor. An excellent example is...

Omori Yoshikiyo

Illustrated twenty books between 1702-1716 and several large albums of courtesan prints which were rare in Kyoto. Reminiscent of contemporary Masanobu.

Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671-1750)

Syllabus:    Kyoto painter, printmaker and illustrator. Studied under Kano Eino and/or Eikei, Tosa Mitsusuke, and Yosha Hambei. Books and albums 1710-50.

Michener:    More than 100 books in at least three hundred volumes each with an average of fifteen double page drawings. Greatest work came after he was fifty and increased in power until he reached 70. Kyoto love of quiet beauty. Probably never visited Edo but know the work of Moronobu who influenced him. Famous during his lifetime. A contemporary calls him a saint of u-e. Typical book Ehon Tokiwagusa (Picture Book of the Pine Tree) pub in Osaka in 1720. The first page of each volume contained a drawing of one of the three symbols of longevity: pine, bamboo, plum. Volume one showing court ladies, tow middleclass and three a parade of courtesans. He liked processional pictures. Kiyonobu was forceful. Sukenobu was graceful. S showed them married women viewing cherry blossoms along peaceful country lanes. Michener talks about Hyakunin Joro Shina-Sadame (Studies of One Hundred Women 1723 - a magnificent record of Japanese life.), Ehon Tamakazura (Picture Book of the Vine of Jewels, 1736) and Ehon Asakayama (Picture Book of Mount Asaka, 1739) on page 61. And then the book he made at age 71: Ehon Yamato Hiji (Picture Book of Things Japanese, 1742) on page 62.

Lane:    A contemporary of Yoshikiyo. Prolific: 200 books, many thousands of illustrations. He maintained an even level of quality and grace throughout his life.

Trained under Kano and Tosa schools. He moved towards popular art in 1698. Master of illustration in Kyoto during the first half of the 18th century.

Also did miniature illustrations and miscellanea. Picture books with minimum verse of contemporary events, amusements of festivals, tales of antiquity and legends. Permeating theme of Japanese womanhood's grace and beauty. Did commissioned erotica. Designed kimonos.

Best picture of the old capital in its refined halcyon pastimes. Portrayed actual Japanese womanhood. A later follower: Harunobu who effects the next half century.

Slide 1:    Ink and color on silk. Love of a quiet beauty. Moronobu influence. Simple, subtle designs, clear pure.

Slide 2:    Michener says a perfect Sukenobu. He loves S.

Slide 4:    Maid servant with back turned to us. One figure off  to the side. Liked five figure compositions in particular.


Michener:    Nine distinct kinds of art p. 45. Torii school as the professional sign painters of the Edo theaters. 4 main members Dramatic power. Flourished from about 1687, Kiyonobu, to 1763 when Kiyomasu died. First, there are a  dozen striking prints from 1695 to 1715 of big, powerful black and white portraits of women, young men and occasionally actors. These people fill their prints and stand in majestic dignity, sweeping their gaily decorated kimonos about them. Those depicting actors served both as advertisements and as cherished mementoes of theatre going. Those depicting famous courtesans of the time were probably commissioned either by the houses in which these girls worked or by their principal patrons. Second, there are more than a dozen powerful prints dated between 1698 and 1712 but colored by hand in swashbuckling orange-red, yellow and subdued olive-green. Third there is a series of books, albums and album sheets in black and white from 1687 to 1758. Especially fine are the large album sheets signed Kiyomasu and depicting theatrical scenes often set in impressionistic landscapes. Use of architecture. Japanese life in early Tokugawa days. Magnificent album Keisei Ehon (Picture Book of Courtesans, 1700). Immediately sold out, pirated the next year and later plagiarized by Masanobu. Fourth, a group of very large prints, excellently colored by hand, showing scenes of violent action on the kabuki stage between 1698 and 1718. Fifth, a voluminous series of prints roughly 13 x 5 5/8 inches (hoso-e size, but often called actor print size) issued between 1707-1745. hand colored and after 1724 frequently enriched by gold dust and lacquer which was known as early as 1714. The disasters are always signed by Kiyomasu. Lacquer her is piled with a heavy brush on areas of solid black, so that the result is a kind of meaningless and cracked mirror smashed into the center of the print, reflecting light and destroying any illusion of beauty. The drawing is poor, the design cluttered and the color harmony nauseous.

Recent studies make it fairly clear that there were two Kiyomasu, one a very fine artist and the other a drudge. Boston posses two stunning prints which were certainly by Kiyonobu I. One showing a swashbuckling Danjuro II in a scene from a Chikamatsu play, Kokusenya the Pirate. The second is finer.

Sixth, is a smaller collection of actor prints in the 13 x 5 5/8 format which come at the very end of the Kiyonobu-Kiyomasu reign, from 1742 to 1758 when Kiyomasu II ceased. These are usually in two colors, rose-red and apple green printed entirely from blocks. It seems likely that the same Kiyomasu who produced the flood of dismal gold-dust and lacquer prints was responsible for many of these attractive prints.

Is it likely that these delicate and often effeminate two color prints signed Kiyonobu could have been done by the roaring giant responsible for the early kabuki scenes signed Kiyonobu?

Seventh, distinguished series of prints signed Kiyomasu depicting birds traditionally dated about 1710. Eagles and crows destroy smaller prey. Eighth, several extant distinguished paintings, 1697 to 1727 on either silk or paper signed Kiyonobu. Early, fresh in color and of a u-e rather than classical content. Ninth, several theatrical signboards remain, attributed to Kiyonobu dating from 1720-5, violent in action, broad in execution and totally commercial.

Kiyonobu (Osaka 1664-1729)

Syllabus:    Son of Torii Kiyomoto, a Kabuki actor and sign painter. Michener says he was a second-rate actor of women's roles in Osaka as early as 1670. Kiyonobu was born in Osaka and moved to Edo in 1687. Paintings, prints and book illustrations.

Michener also says he is not so inventive as certain men who came later. Nor was he so universal in spirit as the amazing man who preceded him, Moronobu, his human figures were more static and less graceful than M, his line was usually less controlled, his plastic sense less developed. But a great artist: The violent swirl of his bold black lines has not been surpassed. The daring creation of huge color patterns was his. No artist disposed his symbols upon a flat rectangle of white paper more effectively. Did devise the tradition of presenting actors' portraits in vigorous action, a convention which was to account for at least 35% of all subsequent u-e production. Titanic force responsible for one of the two main life-springs of u-e, the second of which is Sukenobu. The vitality of Kiyonobu was not to perish until the art itself died.

Lane:    Torii Kiyonobu took Moronobu's style as his model. K's style dominates u-e the first half of the 18th century in Edo. Son of Torii Kiyomoto, an actor, occasional painter of colorful billboards for entrances of Kabuki theater. Even today billboards are hand painted in this style? Even today billboards are painted by Torii descendants.

His family moved to Edo in 1687 where he first worked in book illustrations. Combination of Moronobu with the bombast and hyperbole of Kabuki. Dominates theatrical art for a half century.

Some training in u-e in Osaka under the Kyoto illustrator Yoshida Hambei. More emphasis on action, (actor poses in plays) than the dynamic intensity of Moronobu.

Not much extant from early work which includes illustrations for novels, playbills and billboards which he worked on with his father. The family held a virtual monopoly on this end of the business.

First large scale illustrations from 1700. Actor Book with its full length portraits and Courtesan Book may have influenced acting itself.

Note plate 43 in Lane: part of an erotic series with a rich boldness of black coloring, "solid flesh". Not a master of kimono design. Roundness, solid figures.

Plate 44: Total effect that of pattern, not erotica.

Late works are smaller in scale, done in quieter, graceful manner similar to Kiyonobu II. Show decline, loss of vitality of post Genroku society. Renaissance losing momentum.

From Lecture:    The Torii family created billboards and painting for theater: still hand done, very well. They may have been actors also, definitely backstage, doing hair, etc.

Slide 1:    Samurai with a shorter girl, probably the courtesan in the play, sexy Hollywood actors.

Slide 2:    The spear dance. Shaved forehead with cap to indicate male playing the role of a female. Pose of great drama, great action. House cleaning drama making fun o housewives, spring cleaning Stylized, formulaic.

Slide 3:    maid prepares the ink, geometric design, reference to women painters.

Slide 4:    Love scene, shunga, singing line.


Kiyomatsu (worked late 1690-early 1720's)

Syllabus:    Probably eldest son or younger brother of Kiyonobu, or, less likely, an alternative name used by Kiyonobu. Prints, mostly of actors and some books.

Characteristic prints of early Torii School. Signed works. Maybe Kiyonobu's younger brother or eldest (even adopted) son. Hard to distinguish from Kiyonobu. Softer lighter touch. Relative grace and delicacy. Variations in linear gradation. Kiyonobu's primitive vitality. More modeled after Sigimura.

Plate 48 in Lane: Hand painted, long explanation p. 61

In 1710's Kiyonobu turned much of his Kabuki work over to Kiyomasu (programs, playbills, illustrations for advertisements, etc.)

1715-6: Series of black and white prints of actor Danjuro II with lacquer. Died early 1720's, probably.

Died young. Early kabuki prints all one actor for 100 years before scenes of sets are portrayed.

Slide 5:    1710, concentric squares on costume, Danjuro. Some considered him the best in the family.

Slide 6:    Michener calls him a drudge. Kintaro - often has very dark skin.

Slide 7:    Single actor, in your face, no background, X composition.

Slide 8:     Lovely hand coloring of kimono

Slide 9:    Beautiful woman scenes/themes

Slide 11:    Hawk and oak tree. We do not give the respective attention to the flower and bird motif in this class. U-e does plenty of it and it is very popular across Japan. People change the print in their home as the seasons change.

See Kyoho Period Above

Kiyonobu II (worked 1720's-60's)

Syllabus:    Son of Kiyonobu, inherited his name in 1729, head of school 1750.

Lane calls him and Kiyomasu II sons or adopted sons of Kiyonobu I and Kiyomasu I.

Slide 12:    1726. Green, mustard yellow and rose Urushi-e, lacquer used, typically on eyes for one. (and hair?)

Slide 13:    Pillar print, for display on columns, posts or narrow alcoves in the home.

Kiyomasu II (worked 1720's-early 1760's)

Syllabus:    Paintings, prints, his work is often uneven.

Most limited talent of the four but some greats. Girlish faces characteristic of this period in the Torii School. Austere power evolves to a sensual grace. Influence of Sugimura over Moronobu.

Slide 14:    Sold as one or cut and bought individually. Writing tells you their names and addresses. Michener: The color goes sour which hastens the death of the art.

Other Followers of the Torii School

Torii Kiyotomo. Worked 20's-40's. Probably a late pupil of Kiyonobu I, resembles Kiyonobu II.

Torii Kiyotada. Worked 20's-40's. Seems a pupil Kiyonobu I. Blends Kiyonobu I's and Masanobu's style. Much talent. Uki-e technique imitating western perspective.

Torii Kiyoshige worked late 20's to early 60's. Late pupil of Kiyonobu I. Stiff angular note to his prints. Large pillar prints in Masanobu manner. Masterpieces of Torii school.


Kaigetsudo Ando (Traditional dates 1671-1743)

Syllabus:    U-e painter, primarily in Akasaka, Edo. Primarily known for single bijin standing haughtily, painted in bright colors. Banished to Oshima in 1714 for his role in the "Lady Ejima Affair" involving a shogunal lady in waiting and kabuki actor, Ikushima Shingoro.

Michener:    Three unchallenged signatures on the Kaigetsudo prints offered in Michener read "Nippon Gigwa Kaigetsu Matsuyo Doshin (Anchi or Dohan, as the case may be) zu" This means Japanese for fun only picture Kaigetsu Doshin, the last leaf, drew this. As compared to Kiyonobu and Kiyomasu, the Kaigetsudo courtesan print is more harmoniously composed, individual lines are more subordinated to total design and the resulting air of repose bespeaks something deeply cherished in the Japanese heart. Difference between Kaigetsudo prints and Sukenobu? The former represents an ideal figure in timeless space, a majestic and towering creature living in the mind only. Sukenobu invariably shows us real little girls and patient housewives who live down the street.

Lane:    Further developed sentient ideal of feminine beauty beyond that of Moronobu to make it characteristic of u-e and Japanese art worldwide. Founded Kaigetsudo School. Active 1700-1714. Lived in the Alaska of Edo, the birthplace of much of the culture in Edo> Yoshiwara at the northern end of this area. (2000 women in the Yoshiwara at this time.) Possible early training in ema, votary tables for temples. Much of his work has this look. Thick outlines, majestic poses. Almost monopolized field of courtesan paint. Has a sideline designing kimonos for a textile manufacturer. Individualized beauty of women. Contributed to the decline of the Moronobu School. Was banished from Edo for his involvement of Lady Ejima and a Kabuki actor in 1714. See Michener p. 68 for more details.

Lecture:    Kaigetsudo means: Studio of the moon in your pocket. Only 39 prints remain, very expensive.

Slides 6 & 7:    Paintings

Other Kaigetsudo artists who flourish from 1700-1725.

Kaigetsudo Anchi. Flourished 1700- 1716. Painter and printmaker, possibly son of Ando. More coyly erotic, lovely yet predatory, catlike, suited for woodblock technique.

Slides 8 & 9:    the kimono dominates, no identifying marks for which courtesans they are. Majestic figure.

? Ando and Anchi almost identical. Tender head chin coming around to her shoulder looking back.

Kaigetsudo Doshin. Painter and printmaker, follower of Ando. Also quiet detachment.

Kaigetsudo Dohan. Least skillful of immediate pupils. Painter and printmaker, follower of Ando. Flourishes 1710-16.

Slide 10:    Hard coloring has faded, no socks or shoes.

Slide 11:    Implies motion (unusual for Kaigetsudo school. Side of the box advertises a baker who works in the neighborhood of the workshop.

Slides 12 & 13:    They may have been a calendar series as the kimono designs refer to specific months.

Kaigetsudo Doshu (Noritane) One of the best pupils. Only did painting. and Kaigetsudo Doshu (Doshiu/Norihide) Only paintings.

The next group is from 1720-50.


Self taught. His wide range of forms cover u-e. Black and white to tan-e greats through urushi-e (lacquer), small and large to the benizuri-e (rose) which precede full color printing. Did triptychs, bust portraits, Buddhist subjects, "stone rubbing" (white lines on black, opposite, Chinese), large perspective, elongated pillar, early landscape and flower and bird.

Consistently excellent production. Paired with Hokusai, M may be the more influential of the two.

Earliest work: Courtesan Album of 1701. Modeled on Kiyonobu's published the year before in the designs but his own wit and verse. M a master of Japanese album as Moronobu was of illustration. Dozens of albums on witty and paradoxical approaches to classics, parodies of Noh drama, the Tale of Genji, Kabuki and puppet drama themes. Witty Shunga with text by himself. Children's books. Also master of u-e painting.

Opened his own publishing house in Edo in the 1720's. 1730's his son, Okumura Genroku, takes control of the house to free him to artistry. Large orange prints and medium album plates to smaller intimate lacquer prints of actors which contrasted the conventional pictures by the Torii School.

1740's: Large prints back in vogue. Masanobu led the field. Actor and courtesan, but also western perspective prints. Coloring comparable to hanging scroll paintings (kakemono) and western oil paintings. Lose intimacy of smaller design. Become objects for exhibition, rare. Likened to large format show pieces of Hokusai and Hiroshige landscapes.

Okumura Toshinobu (worked 1717-1740's)

Studied with M, maybe an adopted son. Small intimate lacquer prints with one or two figures of actors or girls. M did much of this mid career, sometimes T excels his master.

Other contemporary artists influenced by M in Lane p. 80-2.



1)    Images From the Floating World: The Japanese Print, Richard Lane. G.P. Putnam's Son's, New York, 1978.
2)    Dr. Elizabeth Owen's Lectures at the University of Colorado, 2003.
3)    The Floating World, James A Michener. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1954.