Ukiyoe 浮世絵

Ukiyoe, literally “images of the floating world”, refers to prints and paintings portraying courtesans, actors, and scenes of the pleasure quarters and theater milieu of Edo (later Tokyo), for which the historical period of 1615 to 1868 was named. The style was developed to suit the tastes of the rapidly rising mercantile society.

Artists such as Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671-1751), Teisai Hokuba (1771-1844), Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), and Utagawa Kunisada (1768-1864) depicted beautiful women and courtesans, elaborately coiffed and dressed in exquisite kimonos.

They were shown parading with attendants or languishing in sensual scenes, such as preparing for a bath or waiting for a lover. Theater settings and portraits of actors were also favored subjects.

The style of Ukiyoe paintings and prints is characterized by distinctive black ink outlines, bold colors, and elaborate patterns used to depict the luxurious clothes of the courtesans and actors who inhabited this unique world.


An example in the Ukiyoe style (left):

Takizawa SHIGENOBU (fl. 1710–1730)
Courtesan in Robes with Calligraphic Motifs
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