uki-e 浮絵
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Lit. floating picture. Usually a woodblock print, in which the three-dimensionality of a scene is emphasized by using one point perspective. Floating picture may refer to the raised or floating appearance of the foreground in these pictures. Also sometimes referred to as kubomi-e 窪み絵 (hollow concave picture), because of the impression of recession in space. The knowledge of perspective necessary for three-dimensional depictions was probably gained through Chinese translations of European books on perspective, one such book is known to have arrived in Japan by 1739.
Okumura Masanobu 奥村政信 (1686-1764) claimed in the margins of his uki-e prints to be the originator ganso 元祖 of this type of print. Early prints from the mid 1740's by Masanobu and others such as Nishimura Shigenaga 西村重長 (?-1756) usually depict the interior of buildings such as *kabuki 歌舞伎 theaters. Members of the Torii school *Toriiha 鳥居派, which was closely associated with the kabuki world, are also known for uki-e, particularly of theater interiors.
A second vogue for perspective pictures began with the increased import of the karakuri 絡繰 apparatus around 1750: these were convex lenses through which to view a certain kind of perspective picture imported mainly from the Netherlands. These prints are now generally referred to as *megane-e 眼鏡絵, which are considered by some to be a category of uki-e. In the Edo period, however, no distinction was made between pictures using the nozoki karakuri 覗絡繰 apparatus and those which did not. For a further discussion of this apparatus, and later perspective prints, see megane-e.


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