Hishikawa Moronobu and Japanese art (1618-1694)

Hishikawa Moronobu and Japanese art (1618-1694)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Hishikawa Moronobu (1618-1694) helped enormously in the popularity of ukiyo-e during its infancy. Hence, Moronobu set in stone some of the early subject matters of woodblock printing that would gradually evolve.

The Met Museum says, “Moronobu, the earliest ukiyo-e master, was trained in his family’s textile business. He used his knowledge of fabric in the design of his prints, which were the first to explore the theme of beautiful women. He adapted a calligraphic style to black-and-white woodblocks, creating expression by manipulating line.”

Moronobu studied the art schools of Tosa and Kano. Thus, with the embroidery background of his father, he developed skills in art and decorative crafts. Therefore, when Moronobu focused on ukiyo-e, he had a broad spectrum of ideas and creativity.

The British Museum says, “The leading artist in Edo (Tokyo) during the formative period of ‘Ukiyo-e’, he is regarded as founder of the school. In the early 1680s Moronobu amalgamated various artistic currents into a new ‘Hishikawa’ style. His depiction of contemporary manners and customs in ample, elegant, refined line and colour was extremely popular. His ‘œuvre’ consists of more than a hundred illustrated books; more than fifty erotic picture-books; and erotic broadsheets, scenes of famous places and illustrations to ‘joruri’ texts in sets.” 

Moronobu wasn’t the founding father of ukiyo-e. However, he created the maturity of ukiyo-e and consolidated this art form enormously in Japan during his lifetime. 


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