Utamaro (1753 - 1806 )

Best known for his slender and graceful bijin-ga, or "pictures of beautiful women," Utamaro is one of the masters of Japanese woodblock printing. He is renowned for his ability to subtly capture the personality and private lives of Edo's women, from courtesans to mothers. Utamaro’s enormous popularity was not limited to Japan. During the 19th century, Utamaro's ukiyo-e designs entranced Western artists and collectors. Mary Cassat was particularly taken by Utamaro’s woodblock prints, exclaiming, “you who want to make color prints, you couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful.”1

The scholar and artist Sekien served as Utamaro’s teacher until Seiken’s death in 1788. While the influence of Kiyonaga coursed through Utamaro's early woodblock prints, his unique style soon asserted itself. A prolific artist, he also produced illustrated books and paintings. Around 1791, he directed his focus to half portraits of women on their own, rather than the full-length, group designs that dominated the genre of bijin-ga. In 1804, he ran into legal trouble with the Tokugawa Shogunate for producing prints relating to a historical scene. The print depicted the 16th century ruler Hideyoshi with his wife and courtesans, entitled Hideyoshi and His Five Concubines. The work was deemed disrespectful and Utamaro was sentenced and imprisoned for a short time. Some believe that this broke his spirit, for he died in Edo two years later.

 

1. Mathews, Nancy Mowll. Mary Cassatt: A Life. New York: Villard, 1994. Print, 194.

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Yoshiwara Niwaka Festival

Utamaro

Yoshiwara Niwaka Festival

JPR-209156

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Entertainments of the Yoshiwara Niwaka Festival

Utamaro

Entertainments of the Yoshiwara Niwaka Festival

JPR-209159

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Yoshiwara Niwaka Festival: The Second Set of Performances

Utamaro

Yoshiwara Niwaka Festival: The Second Set of Performances

JPR-209157

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Flourishing Port of Takase

Utamaro

Flourishing Port of Takase

JPR-209155

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Gods of Luck

Utamaro

Gods of Luck

JPR-209154

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Young Woman Blowing a Glass Noisemaker (Woodblock Reproduction)

Utamaro

Young Woman Blowing a Glass Noisemaker (Woodblock Reproduction)

JPR-209144

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A Game of Sugoroku

Utamaro

A Game of Sugoroku

JPR-209069

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The Heron Maiden [Woodblock Reproduction]

Utamaro

The Heron Maiden [Woodblock Reproduction]

JPR-208418

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Preface for Ehon Mushi Erabi

Utamaro

Preface for Ehon Mushi Erabi

JPR-100907

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Yaso Festival (Yaso no zu)

Utamaro

Yaso Festival (Yaso no zu)

JP6110

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Naniwaya Okita Appearing Again (Reproduction)

Utamaro

Naniwaya Okita Appearing Again (Reproduction)

JP-110068

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Page from List of Books

Utamaro

Page from List of Books

JPR-91955

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Ochie from Koiseya Teahouse (Woodblock Reproduction)

Utamaro

Ochie from Koiseya Teahouse (Woodblock Reproduction)

JP-104540

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Beauty Holding Insect Cage (Reproduction)

Utamaro

Beauty Holding Insect Cage (Reproduction)

JP-104538

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Page from Ehon

Utamaro

Page from Ehon

JPR-91948

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Fox Catching a Woman

Utamaro

Fox Catching a Woman

JPR1-67046

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