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Toyokuni III (AKA Kunisada, 1786 - 1864)

The Play Kosode Soga azami no ironui

Series: Picture of the Stage Lift
Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: 1859
Size (H x W): 14.25 x 29.75 (inches)
Publisher: Tsutaya Kichizo (Koeido)
Seals: Combined aratame and date seal
Signature: Toyokuni ga
Condition: Very good color and impression, light soiling and wear, light wrinkling on center sheet, small binding holes and wormage on left edge, sheets attached, pasted to light paper backing.

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Scene from the Kabuki play Kosode Soga azami no ironui premiered at the Ichimura Theater in 1859 featuring (from left the right)actors Seki Sanjuro III as highwayman in Valley of Hell, Iwai Kumesaburô III as Izayoi Osayo, Sawamura Tossho II as Kageyama Hannojo, Ichikawa Kodanji IV as Oniazami Seikichi, and Kawarazaki Gonjuro as Yaegaki Monzo.

About the artist

View works signed Kunisada

Toyokuni III, also known as Kunisada, was born in the Honjo district of Edo as Kunisada Tsunoda. Kunisada’s family owned a small hereditary ferryboat service. Though his father, an amateur poet, died when Kunisada was a child, the family business provided some financial security. During his childhood, he showed considerable promise in painting and drawing. Due to strong familial ties with literary and theatrical circles, he spent time studying actor portraits.

At age 14, he was admitted to study under Toyokuni, head of the Utagawa school. Kunisada’s ukiyo-e woodblock prints embody the characteristics of the Utagawa school, focusing on traditional subjects such as kabuki, bijin (beautiful women), shunga (erotic prints), and historical prints. Kunisada's first known woodblock print dates to 1807, his first illustrated book to 1808. His career took off from the beginning. Many of his works became overnight successes and he was considered the “star attraction” of the Utagawa school. He signed his works “Kunisada,” sometimes with the studio names of Gototei and Kochoro affixed. In 1844, he adopted the name of his teacher and became Toyokuni III. Kunisada passed away in 1864 in the same neighborhood that he was born. He was 70 years old. Kunisada was a highly popular, and the most active, Japanese ukiyo-e artist of the 19th century. In his time, his reputation surpassed those of his contemporaries Hiroshige and Kuniyoshi.