Katsushika Hokusai, Ukiyo-e & Edo Period Japan

Artists of the Ukiyo-e

Kitagawa Utamaro

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Born: 1753
Died: 1806
Style: A great master of Ukiyo-e, Utamaro is most well known for his prints of women or bijin-ga

There are very few accurate details concerning Utamaro's early life. His birthplace, exact date of birth and information on his parents are all uncertain.

What is generally agreed upon is that he was apprenticed to Toriyama Sekien. Around 1793 Utamaro began a successful partnership with the publisher Tsutaya Juzaburo with whom he published several illustrated books.

It was not until 1791 that Utamaro began to produce the work for which he is remembered and admired. The women of the Yoshiwara district were Utamaro's new subjects, and he painted them quite unlike any other artist. Firstly he produced half-length portraits of women as a pose to the full length images that other ukiyo-e artists were printing. His women were stylised with long faces and thin bodies.

Utamaro also printed books on insects and like most ukiyo-e artists he spent some time producing shunga.

Utamaro is also remembered for being one of the artists who fell foul of the then ruling Tokugawa Shoguns. For printing images of a dubious nature that depicted the historical figure Toyotomi Hideyoshi with his wife and five concubines, Utamaro was made to wear hand-cuffs for fifty days. It is said that this experience was the catalyst for Utamaro's decline as an artist. He died two years later.

A selection of work by Utamaro

i.Yaoya Oshichi, Kosh˘ Kichisabur˘, Dozaemon Denkichi: (Oshichi the greengrocer's daughter, Kichisabur˘ the boy-servant and Dozaemon Denkichi)
ii.Kiseru o motsu onna: (Woman holding a pipe)
iii.Ogiya Hana˘gi: (Hana˘gi of the ďgiya)
iv.Gebon no zu: (Picture of the lower class)
v.J˘bon no zu: (Picture of the upper class)