Ukiyoe and Nishiki-e

What are Ukiyoe and Nishikie

In the early Edo period, as representatives of people culture, Ukiyozoshi was in the area of literary, Joruri and Kabuki were in the field of performing arts, and Ukiyoe was in painting and printing.
The origin of Ukiyoe is in the genre paintings since the end of Muromachi.
From the Warring States Period to the Azuchi-Momoyama Period, the real world of human life was taken up as an interesting subject, and reflecting the preferences of Bushi and rich merchants, products based on the collective popular life such as the Rakuchu-rakugai-zu were created.
After that, the trend moved to Ukiyoe, with derail observation about human individuals, by Moronobu Hishikawa.
And gradually changed from the direct drawing prints into Ukiyoe prints using woodcut printing board, that can be mass produced to meet the growing demand of the general public.
In the latter half of the 18th century, the multicolored Ukiyoe printmaking came to be made in Edo became called Nishikie from its beauty.
As a painter of Nishikie, Harunobu Suzuki, who worked around 1765, is the founder.
In the first half of the 19th century, many excellent painters were participated actively, coupled with a dramatic improvement in the skills of the sculptor and slinger, led the heyday of Nishikie.
Utamaro Kitagawa, Sharaku Toshusai, Kiyonaga Torii and others were competed fame for beautiful woman’s paintings, actor pictures, etc. Toyokuni Utagawa, Hokusai Katsushika and others emerged as popular painters.
A beautiful woman assistant of a reputed tea house in Edo, a famous girl in Yoshiwara, a situation on the stage of Kabuki that gained popularity, a figure of a popular actor etc, was painted by them and became Nishikie.
The Edo citizens enjoyed the painted pictures of popular actors, with engaging lively conversation while looking at the beautiful Nishikie.
Nishikie print publisher sometimes issued a picture before the performance of Kabuki, sometimes used for commercial purposes.
Also, in the Edo period, there were many things that enjoy traveling among the people, even though there were various restrictions, such as pilgrimage.
It seems that these people sometimes bought some Nishikie as a souvenir of Edo tourism and brought them to their hometown.
At the end of the Tokugawa period, Hiroshige Ando and the Utagawa group who reached the heyday, Kunisada (Three generations Toyokuni), Kuniyoshi etc were active.
The theme of Nishikie were that the daily life of the general public had been the main thing, and in addition to the portrait paintings and landscape such as beautiful women’s  paintings and actor’s, things representing the case at the time and historical events.
These also played roles such as newspaper and magazine, Internet news and SNS.

Nishikie in Meiji period

In the beginning of the Meiji era, as a result of the modernization policy such as civilization opening and fostering industries, automobiles, steamships, railway carriages, western style buildings, women's clothing beauties of the Rokumeikan days emerged, It became preferable subjects and was taken as a cool theme of Nishikie.
Then, the local people who traveled to and from Tokyo have increased dramatically and brought these Nishikie to the local areas as souvenirs. It is, so called, a picture postcard.
Also, if a major incident such as the Southwest War broke out, Nishikie played the role of breaking news.
Furthermore, one of the remarkable features of Nishikie in Meiji era is that many subjects of Japanese historical heroic greats including myths and traditions were issued.
This was also the result of the government's nationalist education promotion measures, but from the Sino-Japanese War to the Russo-Japanese War, the period of the last afterglow of the Nishikie came.
It is also due to the undevelopment of news photographs, but also as a result of the growing nationalistic tendency.
As a feature of the Nshikie in Meiji era, the color such as red may be intense compared to the Edo period.
It can also be said that it reflects the society in Meiji era, which was also burning with hope of cheerfulness to catch up with Western countries as well.

(Quoted) Excerpted from the commentary published in 1891, by Masaru Tokinoya, Emeritus Professor of Osaka University.