Okumura Masanobu (1686-1764) was perhaps the first true master of the Ukiyo-e style of Japanese Art. His master, Torii Kiyonobu (1664-1729), is often described as the progenitor of this style. According to a popular legend, Masanobu was only thirteen years old when he and his master Kiyonobu were summoned to Edo Castle to be artists in the court of the shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. On Setsubun, in 1699, the young Masanobu crafted a portrait of Tsunayoshi with his lovers which was widely hailed at the time as a masterwork, but is now lost.

There is nothing known about Masanobu's parents and slim to nothing known of his long life. It is believed that he made his living as a wholesale publisher named Okumura Genraku or Gempachi. He had numerous pseudonyms, including Bunkaku, Kammyo, Hogetsudo, and Tanchosai. The bookstore he ran was located in Edo's Shio-cho neighborhood and later in Tou Aburaeho, and he titled himself a "Nihon eshi" ("Japanese-style Artist").

According to what records we have, Masanobu began his career as an artist at the young age of fifteen and was first published in 1701 in an album of woodblock prints of courtesans from the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter. The young artist signed this work, "Drawn by the Japanese Artist Okumura Gempachi Masanobu." Although Masanobu was obviously influenced by the figure work of Hishikawa Moronobu, Kiyonobu, and Kiyomasu, he was in fact a self-taught artist.

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