Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)

Minamoto no Tametomo Sinking the Ship with a Single Arrow

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Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)
Minamoto no Tametomo Sinking the Ship with a Single Arrow
Woodblock Print
c. 1850
14.5" x 29"
Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ga
Very good color, impression and state, embellished with hand splashed gofun, woodgrain visible

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Tsutaya Umejiro
Murata and Kinugasa, Black Aratame
B.W. Robinson

About the art

Illustrated:  Exhibition of Ukiyo-e by Kuniyoshi.  Ricaar Art Museum. pl 113

Collections:  MFA

The subject of this print is one that Kuniyoshi returns to time and again.  In this wonderfully printed tripych, the famed archer and 12th century warrior, Minamoto no Tametomo shoots an arrow drowning the ship of the govenor of Izu who is trying to capture him.

About the artist

The son of silk dyer, Kuniyoshi Utagawa was born into the Igusa family in Edo. Little is known about his very early years, though he is said to have shown remarkable talent from a young age. Kuniyoshi began his ukiyo-e career as a pupil of Shunei. At age 14 he was accepted to study the art of woodblock printing under Toyokuni I and, in time, would become one of his most successful students. In 1814, he left Toyokuni’s studio to pursue a career as an independent Japanese ukiyo-e artist. Initially, he had little success, selling tatami mats in order to support himself. However, his fortunes changed in 1827 with his dramatic series 108 Heroes of the Suikoden. From that point on, the public hungered for his portrayals of famous samurai and legendary heroes. Kuniyoshi worked in all genres, producing some brilliant landscapes and charming bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women). He died in the spring of 1861 from complications of a stroke.


In direct contrast to the peaceful views of a scenic Japan provided by Hiroshige and Hokusai, the following decades saw a rise of the fierce, fearsome and fantastical in ukiyo-e. Kuniyoshi welcomed this changing public taste. He had a ravenous imagination and the full scope of his work reveals an aesthetic sensibility capable of assimilating almost any experience. No doubt, however, his particular genius felt most at home in the world of martial glory, where epic battles decided the fate of empires and fierce warriors clashed to the death. Kuniyoshi's prints were so popular in his time that he received requests for tattoo designs.

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