Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints (or woodcuts) and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theatre, and pleasure quarters. Usually the word ukiyo is literally translated as ‘floating world’ in English, referring to a conception of an evanescent world, impermanent, fleeting beauty and a realm of entertainments (kabuki, courtesans, geisha) divorced from the responsibilities of the mundane, everyday world.

Ukiyo-e were affordable because they could be mass-produced, and they were mainly meant for townsmen, who were generally not wealthy enough to afford an original painting. Hokusai (1760 – 1849) is among the most reknown ukiyo-e artists. His woodblock print series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which includes The Great Wave off Kanagawa, has been shown in galleries and museums all over the world.

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