Ukiyo-e, or pictures (e) of the floating world (ukiyo), emerged around 1660 with monochrome prints. The masters of this “primitive” period, such as Moronobu and Masanobu, are known for their elegant and vital lines. By 1700, the first early color prints emerged. Hand-colored with vegetable-based pigments, this process proved costly and was replaced by full color printing in 1765.  Known as the father of color printing, Harunobu ushered in the era of nishiki-e, or brocade pictures, with sensitivity and subtlety. In what is referred to as the Golden Age (late 18th century) ukiyo-e not only developed in their use of color, but also shifted in their approach to subject matter. Sharaku imbued his actor portraits with a greater sense of individualism, while Utamaro delved deeper into the “greenhouses” of the Yoshiwara, considering the private lives of courtesans.

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