Born in Edo as Kumejiro Nonaka, Toshikata Mizuno was the son of a master plasterer. At fourteen, Toshikata began his study of ukiyo-e under the tutelage Yoshioshi. The wild antics of the famed ukiyo-e master proved to be too much for Toshikata's father, and the training was cut short. Toshikata went on to study with a variety of teachers: Ryuto Yamada for pottery painting and Western-style painting, Hoshu Shibata for Nanga-style landscapes, as well as Seitei Watanabe and Shoso Mishima. He further explored Western-style rendering through British magazines, newspapers, and painting reproductions. Later, Toshikata returned to Yoshitoshi's studio. His teacher retained a fondness for the young artist and designated him as his successor. In 1887, through his teacher's recommendation, Toshikata joined the newspaper Yamato shinbun as an illustrator,. He worked at the magazine until 1894. He also produced several lithographs for the literary magazine Shinshosetsu and senso-e (war prints) during the Sino-Japanese war.
As his reputation as an illustrator grew, he worked for various publishers, completing kuchi-e for popular authors. Toshikata was greatly inspired by his teacher and echoed Yoshitoshi’s series Thirty-two Aspect of Women with his own series, Thirty Six Beauties, in 1891. In 1898, he designed two fashion-focused series titled Brocade Prints of the Capital for the department store Mitsui (later known as Mitsukoshi). As a painter, his professional associations in the Japan Painting Association, Japan Painting Society, and Japan Youth Painters; Association and exhibitions successes supported the role ukiyo-e painters at a time when the ukiyo-e style was largely undervalued. Toshikata's students included Kiyokata Kaburagi, Kanpo Arai, Hakuho Hirano, as well as a several women artists, such as Shoen Ikeda and his wife, Hidekata Mizuno. Nicknamed "Senkotsu" in allusion to his hermit-like demeanor and frail appearance, Toshikata was said to be a strict teacher and passionate champion of the legacy of ukiyo-e. In April 1908, he died of overwork at age forty-two.
Ukiyo-e | Japanese Woodblock Prints | Ronin Gallery