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Word Count: 2,182
The brilliant and intimately appealing art of the ukiyo-e woodblock print is undoubtedly the most well-known of all Japanese arts This particular style of art flourished in Japan from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centruryThe word Ukiyo-e was originally Buddhist and meant sad world By the seventeenth century however the meaning evolved to mean floating world The world was one of transient pleasures and freedom from the cares and concerns of the world The prints and paintings that the merchants commissioned and bought almost always depicted aspects of a carefree existence and were therefore called ukiyo-e pictures of the floating world To understand these prints and gain respect for the art we must understand something of the ukiyo-e or at least those aspects of it which the print-makers usually depicted the theatre life in the pleasure quarters and travel In essence Ukioy-e reveals much of the rich history of Japan During the sixteenth century in Japan wars of between rivaling feudal lords came to an end and the country was unified As a result the traditional arts experienced a renaissance The military class the samurai began to beautify their castles which until then had been little more than forbidding fortresses Painters and sculptors were hired to decorate the sliding doors ceilings and wood panels while weavers and seamstresses were commissioned to produce beautiful clothes Every form of art and craft was vitalized by the desire of the powerful samurai to make their lives as luxurious as possibleThe great merchant families of the cities of Kyoto and Sakai whose money had provided the samurai with guns and ammunition also wanted to improve the quality of their lives Since they were of a lower social order than the military the merchants did not pretend to be interested in the artisocratic forms of art associated with members of the high culture They commissioned paintings depicting pretty courtesans visited the new Kubuki dances and read popular books that were
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