"I laid my head upon an arm
A little while one night of spring,
And now, alas, must feel alarm
At the dread rumour on the wing."
Shunsho Katsukawa (né Miyagawa) was born in 1726, though little is known about his personal life. He came to Edo to study haiku, poetry, and painting under Shunsui, but soon shifted his attention to ukiyo-e. Originally a member of the Torii school, Shunsho broke away from this reigning school of actor prints to establish his own, more realistic style known as the Katsukawa School. He taught many great ukiyo-e artists, including Shuncho, Shunko, Shunei, and Shunro (Hokusai). The root “shun” identifies artists of the Katsukawa school. Some of his paintings still exist, largely portraying bijin(beautiful women) in genre scenes.
Shunsho is one of the great masters of ukiyo-e. He is known for the balance of strength and delicacy in his designs. While his early depictions of bijin indicate the influence of Harunobu, Shunsho developed a parity of idealism and realism in his prints of kabuki actors. Focusing on the individual rather than the role portrayed, Shunsho marked a pivotal moment in ukiyo-e. From his actor portraits to his backstage views of the theater, Shunsho introduced individualism to yakusha-e (actor prints).