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The Cover
July 28, 1999

Young Woman in a Summer Shower

JAMA. 1999;282(4):306. doi:10.1001/jama.282.4.306

He is one of the half dozen or so great masters of ukiyo-e (literally, "pictures of the floating world"); he has even greater distinction as the acknowledged father of the four-color woodblock print (JAMA cover, June 23/30, 1999). Yet, beyond his works, little is known with any certainty about Suzuki Harunobu (1725-1770). His birthplace is sometimes given as Kyoto, but it was more likely Edo (Tokyo). It is possible that he studied in Kyoto, but he did most of his work in Edo and died there in 1770 at the relatively young age of 45. That he moved in literary circles is known from his work. On the other hand, although much of his work had a samurai orientation, there is no evidence to suggest that Harunobu himself belonged to the samurai class. It was more likely the merchant class. Harunobu's oeuvre consisted of some 1000 prints, drawings, and paintings, including single-sheet color prints numbered in the hundreds, at least 20 illustrated books, most in black and white, and other works such as the pictorial calendars (egoyomi) and the so-called spring pictures (shunga). All of it belongs to the last decade of his life. Moreover, his revolutionary color work dates only from 1765.