(b 1686; d 1764).
Japanese print designer, painter, book illustrator and publisher. Although Masanobu’s artistic career spanned six decades, Edo-period (1600–1868) documents reveal little about his life. However, his prolific artistic output and technical innovations make him one of the leading figures of the early history of Japanese woodblock printing and ukiyoe (‘pictures of the floating world’, see Japan §X 2., (iii)). He began his career in 1701 with a copy of an album of courtesans known as Keisei ehon (‘Yoshiwara picture book’; Chicago, IL, A. Inst.) by Torii Kiyonobu I (see Torii family, §1). His earliest sumizurie (‘black-and-white pictures’) were based on the subject-matter and style of the Torii school and were published in sets of 12 large prints (ōban) or in illustrated books (ehon). Masanobu illustrated no less than 19 novelettes and produced over 30 ehon (see Japan §X 2.). During the formative stage of his career, Masanobu also wrote popular fiction, which led him to develop a pictorial means of conveying literary wit and humour. Through the production of visual parodies of classical themes, known as ...