Shigemasa Kitao was a leading ukiyo-e artist active during the late 18th and early 19th century. Not only a print designer, he was an accomplished painter, calligrapher, illustrator and poet. He is most associated for illustrated books and his bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women), though he also produced some portraits of kabuki actors. Shigemasa was an influential teacher in the legacy of ukiyo-e whose students include Masanobu Kitao, Masayoshi Kitao, and Shunman Kubo.
Born to a family of booksellers and publishers in Edo's Nihonbashi district, Shigemasa may have studied with Shigenaga Nishimura, but was largely self-taught. His earliest works take the form of benizuri-e, printed in two to three colors in the hosoban size. While the influence of Harunobu is clear in the Shigemasa's female figures, scholars suggest that Shigemasa imbues faces with greater expression and a hint of the realism. Shigemasa was a prolific illustrator. His oeuvre of illustrated books numbers well over 200, ranging from albums of kacho-e (bird-and-flower pictures) to shunga (erotic prints). Of particular note is the 1776 Mirror of Competing Beauties of the Green Houses, a collaborative project with Shunsho Katsukawa. The three-volume set shows the courtesans of the Yoshiwara not with customers, but on their own time, engaged in pastimes. Over the course of his career, Shigemasa used as many as fourteen different go (artist names), however, many of his prints are unsigned.