Kano and Tosa school adapted to this new era and woodblock prints emerged presenting every day life. Soon these woodblock prints became very popular and the Tokugawa period counts as a milestone for the art of Japanese printing. Initially a print was a cheap derivative of the traditional art of painting. Due to advancing woodblock print techniques the art of wood block prints developed into a full and popular art form during the 18th century. To make a woodblock print the artist worked closely together with various craftsmen. He drew his design on a translucent piece of paper, the hanshita-e. The paper was dampened and carefully traced by the copyist onto a plate of cherry wood. The engraver carefully carved out the fine graved cherry wood, along the lines of the design, removing everything but the design lines. He could not afford to make a simple mistake, because it was irretrievable. However, his work was more than purely that of a craftsman. He was expected to revise the sometimes rough sketch of the artist into fine, fluent lines in relief in the wood. Then the artist indicated which planes should get which color and a plate was cut per color. The printer prepared and cut special paper which was made from fiber of the mulberry tree. He first printed the color planes and then meticulously the line drawing. For the paint he used materials of vegetable origin.
When we look at the wood block prints now we should realize that many of the original colors have faded over the years. The publisher was the organizational and commercial keyman during the process. He gave the artist the assignment and paid the craftsmen. Sometimes the prints were put onto the market by the thousands. Because of this they became affordable, which obviously contributed to their large popularity. With this in mind it seems unjust that for a long time only the name of the artist, sometimes the name of the engraver and only seldom the publisher, was mentioned on the print.
Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)
After a difficult start as an independent artist he got his break with his series "The 108 Heroes of the Suikoden", based on a popular Chinese tale from the 14th Century. He developed into the best known portraitist of heroes and warriors.The series Seishu Gishi Den, portraits of 47 Ronin, Samurai without a master, is based on a true heroic story.