The term ukiyo-e () translates as "picture[s] of the floating world".
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Asai Ryōi celebrated this spirit in the novel Ukiyo Monogatari ("Tales of the Floating World", "living only for the moment, savouring the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms, and the maple leaves, singing songs, drinking sake, and diverting oneself just in floating, unconcerned by the prospect of imminent poverty, buoyant and carefree, like a gourd carried along with the river current: this is what we call ukiyo." Yamato-e painting of the 17th century had developed a style of outlined forms which allowed inks to be dripped on a wet surface and spread out towards the outlines—this outlining of forms was to become the dominant style of ukiyo-e.
Around 1661, painted hanging scrolls known as Portraits of Kanbun Beauties gained popularity.
The screen is in a refined Kanō style and depicts contemporary life, rather than the prescribed subjects of the painterly schools.
By 1672, Moronobu's success was such that he began to sign his work—the first of the book illustrators to do so.
Ukiyo-e was central to forming the West's perception of Japanese art in the late 19th century–especially the landscapes of Hokusai and Hiroshige.