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Unformatted text preview: Moronobu the newly reconstructed city found an
artist who perfectly captured in visual form its vital and engaging spirit.
Throughout the Tokugawa period, the art of ukiyo-e remained, first and
foremost, the art of Edo.
Moronobu possessed two qualities that, apart from his natural artistic
ability, made him a successful pioneer in ukiyo-e. He had an intimate 198 The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture and personal interest in townsman life, unlike the detached curiosity of
most earlier genre painters; and he was sufficiently self-confident and
assertive to demand recognition as an independent artist. Much genre
painting had been done by unknown people, and in Moronobu’s younger
years about the only opportunity for aspiring painters, unless they were
members of the officially patronized schools like the Kanò and Tosa,
was the relatively humble chore of drawing anonymous illustrations for
popular books. Moronobu not only insisted upon signing his paintings,
he emphatically identified himself on them with such signatures as “The
Yamato artist Hishikawa Moronobu.” Moreover, he was the first artist
of his kind to go beyond the secondary function of illustrating books and
to produce both picture albums and “single-sheet” artworks.
But Moronobu’s great innovation was to make the shift from painting
to woodblock printing. Although he and other ukiyo-e artists continued
to do some of their work in paint, it was their use of the woodblock print
that gave the ukiyo-e its special character. Not only did woodblock printing make possible the production of pictures in numbers sufficient to
meet the great demand for this plebeian art form; it also provided a
medium—that is, pictures printed in ink by means of carved woodblocks
—that made ukiyo-e unique and instantly distinguishable from all other
kinds of Japanese art.
The earliest ukiyo-e, done by Moronobu and others, were simply black
and white prints known as “primitives” (fig. 56). Gradually, however, Fig. 56 “Street Scene in the Yoshiwara” by Moronobu (The...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13