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Verne Gallery - A Gallery of Japanese Prints and Paintings
You are here > Online Catalog > Kunisada > Artist Biography

Utagawa Kunisada, 1786 – 12 January 1865, was the most popular, prolific and financially successful designer of ukiyo-e woodblock prints in 19th-century Japan. In his own time, his reputation far exceeded that of his contemporaries, Hokusai, Hiroshige and Kuniyoshi.

Following the traditional pattern of the Utagawa school, Kunisada's main occupation was kabuki and actor prints, and about 60% all of his designs fall in this category. However he was also highly active in the area of bijin prints (comprising about 15% of his complete works), and their total number was far higher than any other artist of his time. From 1820 to 1860 he likewise dominated the market for portraits of sumo wrestlers. For a long time (1835–1850) he had an almost complete monopoly on the genre of prints related to The Tale of Genji; it was only after 1850 that other artists began to produce similar designs. Noteworthy also are the number of his surimono, and although they were designed almost exclusively prior to 1844, few artists were better-known in this area.

Kunisada's woodblock print productivity was extraordinary. Almost from the first day of his activity, and even at the time of his death in 1865, Kunisada was a trendsetter in the art of the Japanese woodblock print. Always at the vanguard of his time, and in tune with the tastes of the public, he continuously developed his style, which was sometimes radically changed, and did not adhere to stylistic constraints set by any of his contemporaries. His productivity was extraordinary. Approximately 14,500 individual designs have been catalogued (multi-ptych sets counted as a single design) corresponding to more than 22,500 individual sheets. It seems probable based on these figures that Kunisada actually produced between 20,000 and 25,000 designs for woodblock prints during his lifetime (i.e. 35,000 to 40,000 individual sheets).

Museums:
British Museum
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Brooklyn Museum
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Bijin - Beauty

Beauty in the Late Afternoon (triptych)

Kunisada, Samurai Warrior in Spring

Kunisada, 30 Views of Edo

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