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Woman looking away from game (Go) board

by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Abstract

The son of a silk dyer, Utagawa Kuniyoshi was apprenticed to the printmaker Utagawa Toyokuni I. whose other pupils included Toyoshige and Kunisada. Unlike his master, who specialized in actor portraits, Kuniyoshi excelled in depicting historical scenes and events along with celebrated warriors. Like many of his contemporaries, the artist experimented widely, producing prints of everything from landscapes to erotica. Kuniyoshi’s first published work was a set of book illustrations released in 1814, although his name remained obscure for several years until his publication of a print series depicting 75 heroes from Japanese lore and legend. When prints of actors and beautiful women (bijin-ga) were banned by the Japanese government in 1842, the Japanese middle class became enthusiastic supporters of Kuniyoshi’s seemingly inoffensive historical prints. In 1843, the artist released a satirical triptych print criticizing the Shogun, launching an official investigation that resulted in the destruction of Kuniyoshi’s woodblocks and unsold prints, as well as an official censure. The print, however, remained popular with the middle class. Bijin-ga (images of beauties) might be of actual contemporary and historic women or of an idealized type of beauty specific to a time and region. Courtesans in particular were usually depicted in the latest and most elaborate fashions of the day. After an increasing number of censorship laws were passed to limit the production of prints of famous courtesans, thought to corrupt the morals of the citizens of Japan, many artists turned to domestic images of mothers and daughters or women with servants and generalized pictures of the latest fashions in order to satisfy the demand for bijin-ga and skirt the laws.

Note

Materials may be used for educational, non-commercial purposes only. Acknowledgement to be given to the ASIANetwork-Luce Asian Art in the Undergraduate Curriculum Project and to the college from whose collection the work comes. The individual college retains copyright to the work.

Administrative Notes

Materials may be used for educational, non-commercial purposes only. Acknowledgement to be given to the ASIANetwork-Luce Asian Art in the Undergraduate Curriculum Project and to the college from whose collection the work comes. The individual college retains copyright to the work.

Copyright
Copyright restrictions apply.
Publisher
Lawrence University
PID
coccc:24033