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Kunichika (1835 - 1900)

Ichikawa Danjuro as Kumagai Naozane and Ichikawa Yonezo as Taira no Atsumori

Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: 1893
Size (H x W): 14 x 27 (inches)
Publisher: Hasegawa Sonokichi
Seals: Toyohara Kunichika
Signature: Oju Toyohara Kunichika hitsu
Condition: Good color and impression, soiling and wear, album backing, small loss in top left corner on right sheet, embellished with burnishing and metallic pigments.


About the artist

Kunichika Toyohara was born Yasohachi Arakawa, the son of a public bathhouse proprietor in the artisan section of Edo. As a young man, he studied with the ukiyo-e artist Chikanobu, from whom he received his artist name. He then apprenticed under Kunisada and began to produce actor prints in the Utagawa style, though he never used the Utagawa name. Kunichika married and had one daughter, though his marriage ended due to his questionable personal conduct.


Known for his actor okubi-e (big-head portraits), Kunichika's prints captured a traditional genre with the bold new colors of aniline dyes. He made great use of the deep, scarlet red to dramatic effect. In addition, he produced some historical prints and journalistic illustrations. Passionate about kabuki theater, Kunichika regularly spent time backstage, sketching the actors and watching the plays. This wealth of personal experience in the theater lends an intimacy to his impeccable yakusha-e (actor prints). Before the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Kunichika Toyohara was chosen by the Japanese government to present his work at the 1867 World Exhibition in Paris.