Kitagawa Utamaro



Kitagawa Utamaro


An original painting of "ukiyo-e" woodblock print artist Kitagawa Utamaro was discovered at a house in the city of Tochigi, an art expert said Friday.

The painting entitled "Onna Daruma Zu" (Picture of Woman Dharma) depicts the upper body of a courtesan, disguising herself as a Buddhist dharma wearing a red robe, on a sheet of Japanese "washi" paper.

The painting, which is about 37 centimeters long and 57 cm wide, was appraised to be genuine by Shugo Asano, head of the cultural section of the Chiba City Museum of Art.

"It will help considerably in learning about the process of change in his drawing style," Asano said, even though the painting has deteriorated severely, referring to the Edo period popular painter.

Asano said he assumes that Utamaro (1753-1806) may have produced the painting when he was in his late 30s, slightly before the height of his career, by the way that the hair and facial structures are drawn.

The work in question is one of only 30 autographed paintings by Utamaro, who is believed to have produced more than 2,000 woodblock prints.

The existence of "Onna Daruma Zu" was noted in an old document, but it had not been proved. Thus, the painting was called "phantom work."

The owner of the painting inherited it from her deceased husband, who bought it for 3,000 yen from a junk dealer about 20-30 years ago.

The painting is now stored at the Tochigi Kuranomachi Museum of Art for protection.
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Kitagawa Utamaro (喜多川 歌麿)
(ca. 1753 - 1806)
(his name was archaically romanized as Outamaro) was a Japanese printmaker and painter, and is considered one of the greatest artists of woodblock prints (ukiyo-e). He is known especially for his masterfully composed studies of women, known as bijinga. He also produced nature studies, particularly illustrated books of insects.

His work reached Europe in the mid 19th century, where it was very popular, enjoying particular acclaim in France. He influenced the European Impressionists, particularly with his use of partial views, with an emphasis on light and shade.

Various accounts claim that he was born in either Edo (present-day Tokyo), Kyoto, or Osaka (the three main cities of Japan), or a provincial town (no one is sure exactly which one) in around 1753; the exact date is also uncertain. Another long-standing tradition has is that he was born in Yoshiwara, the courtesan district of Edo, the son of a tea-house owner, but there is no evidence of this. His original name was Kitagawa Ichitaro.

It is generally agreed that he became a pupil of the painter Toriyama Sekien while he was still a child, and there are many authorities who believe that Utamaro was his son as well. He lived in Sekien's house while he was growing up, and the relationship continued until Sekien's death in 1788.

Sekien was originally trained in the aristocratic Kanō school of painting, but in middle age he started to lean toward the popular (or ukiyo-e) school. Sekien is known to have had a number of other pupils, none of any distinction.

Utamaro, in common with other Japanese of the time, changed his name as he became mature, and also took the name Ichitaro Yusuke as he became older. He apparently also married, although little is known about his wife, and he apparently had no children.

His first major professional artistic work, at about the age of 22, in 1775, seems to have been the cover for a Kabuki playbook, under the gō of Toyoaki. He then produced a number of actor and warrior prints, along with theatre programmes, and other such material. From the spring of 1781, he switched his gō to Utamaro, and started painting and designing fairly forgettable woodblock prints of women.

At some point in the middle 1780s, probably 1783, he went to live with the young rising publisher Tsutaya Jūzaburō, with whom he apparently lived for about 5 years. He seems to have become a principal artist for the Tsutaya firm. His output of prints for the next few years was sporadic, as he produced mostly illustrations for books of kyoka, literally 'crazy verse', a parody of the classical waka form. He seems to have produced nothing at all that has survived in the period 1790-1792.

In about 1791 Utamaro gave up designing prints for books and concentrated on making half-length single portraits of women, rather than the prints of women in groups favoured by other ukiyo-e artists. In 1793 he achieved recognition as an artist, and his semi-exclusive arrangement with the publisher Tsutaya Jūzaburō was terminated. He then went on to produce a number of very famous series, all featuring women of the Yoshiwara district.

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Over the years, he also occupied himself with a number of volumes of nature studies and shunga, or erotica. In 1797, Tsutaya Jūzaburō died, and Utamaro apparently was very upset by the loss of his long-time friend and supporter. Some commentators feel that his work after this never reached the heights it did before.

In 1804, at the height of his success, he ran into legal trouble by publishing prints related to a banned historical novel. The prints, entitled Hideyoshi and his 5 Concubines, depicted the military ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi's wife and concubines; Consequently, he was accused of insulting Hideyoshi's dignity. He was sentenced to be handcuffed for 50 days (some accounts say he was briefly imprisoned). According to some sources, the experience crushed him emotionally and ended his career as an artist.

He died two years later, on the 20th day of the 9th month, 1806, aged about fifty-three, in Edo.

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A seller of fan-papers and a young beauty


. Woman exhaling smoke from a kiseru pipe .
kiseru no kemuri o fuku onna


Oiran to Daruma 花魁と達磨 
Daruma and the Courtesans (geisha)


wild carnation -
the fragile features of
this old courtesan

© Gabi Greve: LOOK !





Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this gabi san


Anonymous said...

I heard the news on TV

the lady who found the picture

her husband bought if for only 3000 yen from an antique brocker

lucky lady


Gabi Greve said...

That's fascinating, Gabi.
I find myself wondering if there is a Japanese version of 'Antiques Roadshow'.


Yes, we do have one, once a week !

Anonymous said...

Japan Times

"Great Ukiyo-e Masters"

at the Nara Prefectural Museum of Art

presents selected ukiyo-e (Japanese genre painting) prints drawn from the large collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in Minnesota. Boasting one of the best collections of Japanese artworks in the United States, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts owns around 3,000 high-quality ukiyo-e that have been remarkably well preserved.

The exhibition showcases around 245 works that have returned to Japan for the first time, by ukiyo-e masters from the Edo Period (1603-1867), including two known for their bijinga (paintings of beautiful women), Suzuki Harunobu (1725-1770) and Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806); Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), whose "36 Views of Mount Fuji" print series is known internationally; and Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), who is famous for his use of bold compositions and bright blue shades; till May 25.



Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

kamiyui 髪結い hairdo master, hairdresser

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Lady with a kushi 櫛 comb


Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

temari 鞠(まり)-手毬(てまり)hand ball, rag ball
Ladies making Temari

Gabi Greve said...

Utamaro -
Myth-Maker of the Brothel
Ian Buruma

Of all the masters of the woodblock print in the Edo Period, Utamaro has the most colorful reputation. Hokusai was perhaps the greatest draughtsman, Hiroshige excelled in landscapes, and Kuniyoshi had the wildest theatrical flair. Utamaro (1753–1806) was the lover of women.

Not only did he create extraordinary prints and paintings of female beauties, often high-class prostitutes, but he was also, it was said, a great habitué of the brothels in Edo himself. Prostitutes, even at the top end of the market, no longer have any of the glamor associated with their trade in eighteenth-century Japan, but “Utamaro” is the name of a large number of massage parlors that still dot the areas where famous pleasure districts once used to be. Even in Utamaro’s time, the glamor of prostitutes was largely a fantasy promoted in guidebooks and prints. He made a living providing pictures of the “floating world” of commercial sex, commissioned by publishers who were paid by the brothel owners.

Three remarkable paintings by Utamaro set in different red light districts in Edo are the main attraction of “Inventing Utamaro: A Japanese Masterpiece Rediscovered,” a fascinating exhibition at the Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. The last time all three were seen together was in the late 1880s in Paris. The Japanese dealer Hayashi Tadamasa kept the earliest (between 1780 and 1790) and best one for himself. It is called Moon at Shinagawa (1788–1790), and shows an elegant teahouse with a view of the sea. A number of finely dressed “courtesans” are seen playing musical instruments, reading poems, and bringing out dainty dishes. This painting was acquired by Charles Lang Freer in 1903 and is now part of the Freer/Sackler collection.