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Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)
'Kawarazaki Gonjuro Acting as Araiso no Koji' original ukiyo-e woodblock 1860s

1861

$5,200

About

Some of the most popular printed images in the late Japanese ukiyo-e tradition were depictions of celebrities, such as this print of Kawarazaki Gonjuro acting as Araiso no Koji. Kawarazaki Gonjuro appears in dozens of woodblock prints by Toyokuni III as well as other woodblock artists of the 1850s and 1860s, each depicting the actor in a role for which they were well known. This particular print is one from a larger series, placing the actor along his contemporaries such as Ichikawa Ichizo. In the image, we see a full-length view of the actor, wearing a kimono decorated with a massive fish swimming among seaweeds. This serene view is countered by the drama of the actor, twisting his body in space and his face in suspense as lightning strikes above. 13.5 x 9.5 inches, artwork 21.75 x 17.88 inches, frame Framed to conservation standards using archival materials including 100 percent rag matting, TruGuard glass to inhibit fading, an housed in a gold finish wood moulding. Utagawa Kunisada (1786 – 1865), also known as Utagawa Toyokuni III, was the most popular, prolific and commercially successful designer of ukiyo-e woodblock prints in 19th-century Japan. In his own time, his reputation far exceeded that of his contemporaries, Hokusai, Hiroshige and Kuniyoshi. Almost from the first day of his activity, and even at the time of his death in 1865, Kunisada was a trendsetter in the art of the Japanese woodblock print. Always at the vanguard of his time, and in tune with the tastes of the public, he continuously developed his style, which was sometimes radically changed, and did not adhere to stylistic constraints set by any of his contemporaries. His productivity was extraordinary. About 14,500 individual designs have been catalogued (polyptych sets counted as a single design) corresponding to more than 22,500 individual sheets. It seems probable based on these figures that Kunisada actually produced between 20,000 and 25,000 designs for woodblock prints during his lifetime (i.e. 35,000 to 40,000 individual sheets). Following the traditional pattern of the Utagawa school, Kunisada's main occupation was kabuki and actor prints, and about two-thirds of his designs fall in this category. However he was also highly active in the area of bijin-ga prints (comprising about fifteen percent of his complete works), and their total number was far higher than any other artist of his time. From 1820 to 1860 he likewise dominated the market for portraits of sumo wrestlers. For a long time (1835–1850) he had an almost complete monopoly on the genre of prints related to The Tale of Genji; it was only after 1850 that other artists began to produce similar designs. Noteworthy also are the number of his surimono, and although they were designed almost exclusively prior to 1844, few artists were better-known in this area. Kunisada's paintings, which were privately commissioned, are little-known, but can be compared to those of other masters of ukiyoe painting. His activity as a book illustrator is also largely unexplored. He was no less productive in the area of ehon than he was in full-sized prints, and notable among his book prints are shunga pictures, which appeared in numerous books. Due to censorship, they are signed only on the title page with his alias "Matahei". Landscape prints and musha-e (samurai warrior prints) by Kunisada are rare, and only about 100 designs in each of these genres are known. He effectively left these two fields to be covered by his contemporaries Hiroshige and Kuniyoshi, respectively. The mid-1840s and early 1850s, were a period of expansion when woodblock prints were in high demand in Japan. During this time Kunisada collaborated with one of or both Hiroshige and Kuniyoshi in three major series as well as on a number of smaller projects. This co-operation was in large part politically motivated in order to demonstrate solidarity against the intensified censorship regulations of the Tenpō Reforms. Also beginning around the mid-1850s there are series in which individual parts of designs (and sometimes complete sheets) are signed by Kunisada's students; this was done with the intention of promoting their work as individual artists. Notable students of Kunisada included Toyohara Kunichika, Utagawa Sadahide and Utagawa Kunisada II. [Biography via Wikipedia]

Details

  • Creator
    Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III) (1786-1864, Japanese)
  • Creation Year
    1861
  • Dimensions
    Height: 21.75 in. (55.25 cm)Width: 17.88 in. (45.42 cm)
  • Medium
  • Period
  • Condition
    Print in overall good condition; light fading to red pigments and complete fading of yellow pigments; light toning to paper; paperclip rust stain upper right; some minor tears and losses around perimeter of sheet; housed in a new custom frame.
  • Gallery Location
    Milwaukee, WI
  • Reference Number
    Seller: 1073d1stDibs: LU60536510002

Shipping & Returns

  • Shipping
    $45 Standard Parcel Shipping
    to United States 0, arrives in 4-9 days.
    We recommend this shipping type based on item size, type and fragility.
    Ships From: Milwaukee, WI
  • Return Policy

    A return for this item may be initiated within 14 days of delivery.

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