A View of Nakazu


The term ukiyo-e, literally “pictures of the floating world,” refers to a genre of Japanese artwork that flourished in the Edo period (1600–1868). As the phrase “floating world” suggests, with its roots in the ephemeral worldview of Buddhism, ukiyo-e captured the fleeting dynamics of contemporary urban life. While being accessible and catering to “common” tastes, the artistic and technical details of these prints show remarkable sophistication, their subjects ranging from portraits of courtesans and actors to classical literature. Utagawa Toyoharu (1735–1814) was the founder of the Utagawa school, which was highly influential in the 19th century. He studied Western art and applied the technique of linear perspective to ukiyo-e, advancing the style that had been used by Okumura Masanobu. He experimented with various subjects ranging from Kabuki actors to European landscapes, but overall his images are characterized by a certain gentleness and warmth, outlined by fluid brushstrokes. This 1772–73 print shows pedestrians crossing a bridge spanning a river crowded with boats.

Last updated: September 18, 2015