Kiyotsune (fl. c.1757 - 1779 )

The son of a theatrical program publisher, Kiyotsune Torii grew up in Edo’s art scene. During his time, the Torii school was the preeminent producer of actor prints. He began his ukiyo-e training under Kiyomitsu, but drew strong inspiration from the prints of Harunobu. Kiyotsune’s familial connection with the theater shines through in his work. Specializing in yakusha-e, or actor prints, his figures appear elegant and graceful. In 1741, artists began to experiment with printed color. During the 1740s and 1750s, rosy pinks and pale greens were printed within the bold lines of the print. Kiyotsune captured the beauties of Edo with a shy and delicate femininity. While his bijin (beautiful women) are idealized, they are distinct from those of his teacher. In addition to single-sheet prints produced in the Torii school, Kiyotsune was a prolific illustrator of kibyoshi, comic-like illustrated books. He produced over 130 such kibyoshi over the course of his career.

Japanese Woodblock Prints (1600 - 1800)

Early 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. The late 18th century welcomed a “golden age” of ukiyo-e, during which time artists developed the use of color and diversified 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. Browse our collection of early ukiyo-e below.


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  • Buncho
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  • 1600 - 1800 (Early Edo)


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Kabuki Actor Ichikawa Ebizo


Kabuki Actor Ichikawa Ebizo


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