Torii Kiyonobu was an ukiyo-e artist and founder, alongside his father Torii Kiyomoto, of the Torii school of ukiyo-e, specializing chiefly in billboard (advertising) paintings for the kabuki theatre.
Born and raised in Osaka around 1664, by his father, who was both a kabuki actor and billboard painter, Kiyonobu studied the fine arts under his father and, it is believed, perhaps under prominent Kansai-area book illustrator and ukiyo-e pioneer Yoshida Hanbei as well.
Kiyonobu and his father moved along with the rest of their family to Edo in 1687. There, Kiyonobu quickly became involved in producing book illustrations in the mode of Hishikawa Moronobu. Though his early works closely resemble those of Moronobu in style, they have more energy and suggest bolder action, indicating the influence of the kabuki aesthetic upon the artist.
Throughout the 1690s, he continued to produce both book illustrations and kabuki billboard paintings, his first large-scale illustrations appearing in 1700. A bold, powerful use of black lines typifies his style, one which ukiyo-e expert Richard Lane cites as forming the basis not only for kabuki prints from then onwards, but also as potentially quite influential upon kabuki itself, which was a very young art at that time, still in its formative stages.
Kiyonobu continued to produce not only book illustrations, actor prints, and billboards in the early decades of the 18th century, but hanging scroll paintings and other works as well.
- Lane, Richard. Images from the Floating World. New York: Konecky & Konecky, 1978. pp58-60.