Okumura Masanobu: Innovator and Entrepreneur
Okumura Masanobu (1686–1764) began his career with an album of courtesan pictures published in 1701, when he was only fifteen. For more than fifty years he continued to work as a printmaker, book illustrator, and painter, and from 1719 on, also as his own publisher.
Masanobu's success in the competitive commercial world of ukiyo-e was due not only to his artistic ability but also to his skill at promoting himself and his products. He claimed, often in lengthy inscriptions on his prints, to be the originator of such innovations as the long, narrow pillar prints, perspective prints, and even the early woodcuts printed with two or three colors. Some of the inscriptions include warnings that his works are being pirated by unscrupulous persons and that discriminating customers should look for “the true signature of Masanobu” and the red-gourd seal of his publishing house, the Okumuraya.