Born Shinmyo (Chikatae) Okumura, Masanobu was an ukiyo-e painter, printmaker and publisher in Edo. Though largely a self-taught artist, he studied with Kiyonobu for a time. Masanobu owned a book and print shop, illustrating his first book in 1701. He was influenced by the work of Moronobu, Kiyonobu and Sukenobu. Opening his own publishing house circa 1724, Masanobu began to explore different pictorial techniques and formats for single-sheet prints. He not only published his own prints, but also those of his student Toshinobu. While Masanobu was one of the first artists to make the shift from hand coloring to the early form of printed color, he passed away before the development of full-color nishiki-e (brocade pictures). He is particularly known for his beauties and shunga (erotic pictures). One of the earliest forms of ukiyo-e, shunga provided both entertainment and instruction.
An innovator of ukiyo-e, Masanobu is revered for his dynamic and exciting “singing line,” as well as the intimate, tangible interactions between his subjects. From the linear mastery of sumi-e (black and white) to gently colored benizuri-e (rose-colored pictures), Masanobu consistently stood at the forefront of ukiyo-e.