1764–72 / Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper, with embossing / 11 1/4”x8 1/8” / The Met
Suzuki Harunobu (1725?-1770) played a pivotal role in the evolution of Japanese printmaking during its great period — the last half of the i8th and the first years of the 19th century. In the final years of his relatively brief life, he opened up a new dimension of expression in that tradition of graphics by introducing many colors to what had essentially been a mono-chromatic art form.
Just 20 or so years previously, the invention of so-called benizuri-e had made it possible to print ukiyoe in three or four colors, but already it was becoming possible to print about ten different colors on a single sheet of paper. It was Harunobu who first applied this new technique to ukiyoe prints. Such prints were called nishiki-e.
Harunobu died in 1770, only five years after introducing the nishiki-e print. However, in those last few years of his life, he produced over one thousand print designs, chiefly depictions of willowy young girls, and also a fair percentage of shunga (erotic prints), as most ukiyo-e artists did. He is known to have produced at least seven shunga volumes.
Suzuki Harunobu / ukiyo-e.org