(Jap.: ‘pictures of the floating world’).
Term applied to the dominant movement in Japanese art of the 17th to the 19th century. It refers to the subjects from everyday life, with its ever-shifting fashions, favoured by printmakers in this period. Typical subjects were theatre scenes, actors in well-known roles, and prostitutes and bathhouse girls. Japanese prints began arriving in European ports in the 1850s (Monet bought one in Le Havre in 1856) and greatly influenced avant-garde French artists, to whom their flat decorative colour and expressive pattern came as a revelation.