The rise of Japanese prints is situated around the 18th century favored by the enrichment of the we althy bourgeoisie, although not enough to have their houses decorated by the most renowned painters. Thus, without worrying about owning unique works, the Japanese bourgeois played the role of authentic patrons with the artists of their time.
Since the 17th century, wood engravings (in the style of Western xylography) have been made in Japan with a particular technique. The Japanese print is a complex woodcut technique because, in addition to the drawing, the print must be printed as many times as there are colors. The drawing was executed by the painter with ink, on a sheet of paper that was later pasted on a wooden board; The engraver then began his work by carving the wood, engraving a plate for each color according to the first, then the final print run paper was applied to all the plates. The printer then worked with a press, and depending on the force given to it, he obtained nuances in the gradients and in the color intensities.
Initially they were made in black and white, but later colors were introduced. First they were colored by hand with red, yellow, blue and green and immediately, realizing the insufficiency of these colors, from the 18th century they used the process of "lacquering" the prints, with the purpose of achieving abright, mixing colors with glue.
A final refinement involved successively printing a full range of colors on the same stamp.
These paintings that appear to have been quickly composed on the spur of the moment have been given the name “Ukiyo-e” or “floating world paintings”. The painters of this style, claimed their exclusive belonging to the Yamato (old name of Japan) and, rejecting any heritage that linked them to Chinese painting from which Japanese painting starts, created a typically Japanese art. Observing carefully, they painted the life of the town with realism, often with humor and great tenderness, even in the evocation of the landscapes this same new feeling of truth is detected. With it they handed the bourgeoisie a mirror in which it saw itself reflected.
Scorned by the nobility, this school was a resounding success among the people it addressed. The problems of wide dissemination, never raised until then, curiously led to taking from Buddhism what would most contribute to disseminating images "of an easy life, of an ephemeral and mobile world": the printing technique, practiced by the monks Buddhists from the s. VII.
The favorite subjects are generally friendly, from everyday life, women, actors (Kabuki) or landscapes, among which the views of Fuji stand out. Because of their fragile beauty, these subjects fully expressed the ephemeral world that "Ukiyo-e" wanted to fix for an instant: leaves swaying in the wind, themovement of the waves of the sea, a gesture stopped halfway, etc.