Katsushika Hokusai, Ukiyo-e & Edo Period Japan

Artists of the Ukiyo-e

Utagawa Toyokuni (Toyokuni I)
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Born: 1769
Died: 1825
Style: A great master of late 18th/early 19th century Ukiyo-e, Toyokuni is most well known for his prints of women and kabuki actors

Utagawa Toyokuni was born in Edo in 1769. He served his apprenticeship with the artist Utagawa Toyoharu, from whom he took the 'art name' or 'go' Utagawa. Utagawa Toyokuni is known today as Toyokuni I to distinguish him from those of his pupils who later took his name.

Toyokuni's earlier works depicted mainly bijin-ga, but it is for his images of kabuki that he is most remembered. Toyokuni' kabuki prints portrayed actors as they appeared on stage, not simply portraits of actors as most artists at the time produced. Because of this his prints became immensely popular with the theatre-going public and Toyokuni very quickly established a reputation for himself.

Toyokuni was a pupil and later one of the leading masters of the Utagawa school of printing. During the height of his career the Utagawa school became the pre-eminent school of art in Edo and was a successful business, garnering a wide range of commissions for it's kabuki prints. Toyokuni attracted many pupils including the prominent ukiyo-e artists Kunisada and Kuniyoshi.

A selection of work by Toyokuni

i.A Kabuki actor (title unknown)
ii.A Kabuki actor (title unknown)
iii.Kinokuni yaSawamura Sanjûrô III as Ôboshi Yuranosuke: this print is from the series Forms of Actors on Stage (Yakusha Butai no Sugata-e)
iv.The Actors Ichikawa Danzo IV and Iwai Kumesaburo I as Kawagoe no Taro Shigeyori and Kyo no Kimi: using a conventional kabuki mie for his two actors
v.Iwai Hanshiro IV as the wet nurse Masaoka and Sawamura Tozo as the evil serving lady Yashio: from the play Omiura date nebiki performed at the Nakamura-za