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THE ARTIST – KUNIMASA

Being a pupil of Toyokuni Utagawa, Kunimasa’s work with woodblock prints was not only rare, but in high demand due to the detailing and quality.  Kunimasa actually focused his artistic abilities doing work as a printmaker until 1805.  At that time, he turned his direction to Kabuki actor portraits.  As you can imagine, actors loved his work, often seeking him out to do a special painting. 

Kunimasa originated from Aizu, which is a province in Iwashiro.  At first, his work was solely to work in the dye shop when he made his way to Edo, which is today’s Tokyo.  His work was so amazing and crisp that he was quickly noticed by Toyokuni.  Soon after meeting, Kunimasa was asked to become an apprentice under Toyokuni’s guiding hand. 

Again, while Kunimasa is best known for his beautiful work on Kabuki actors, he also focused his attention on Bijinga, which are portraits of beautiful women.  As with most woodblock artists, each has a distinct style.  For Kunimasa, his style focuses on capturing the intensity of Sharaku, using decorative pageantry that he learned from his master Toyokuni.  Even though many compare his work in this way, and while Kunimasa is highly regarded as a woodblock artist, many believed he never achieved the degree of intensity that you would see with Sharaku. 

Kunimasa actively painted woodblock prints from 1773 to 1810. One of his most amazing prints was a heartfelt tribute to Ebizo when he retired in 1796 from the Kabuki stage.  Although he could have captured the actor in a number of ways, he chose a Shibaraku scene, which is ranked as the most famous and impressive of all drama.  In this type of scene, the actor bursts onto the Hanamichi walkway coming from the backside of the theater, shouting “Shibaraku”, which translates in English to “Wait a Moment”.  This shout draws attention, as the actor makes his way to the stage to save characters from death. 

What we see with Kunimasa in his portrait of Ebizo was this scene, which was truly incredible.  In addition, this particular portrait was done as a “large head” portrait, which is known as Okubi-e.  As you can imagine, this depiction captures a unique profile of the actor.  Also captured in the portrait is the colorful and detailed costume, as well as actor’s makeup.  Then, you would see Ebizo’s wig, paper decorations tucked neatly beneath a black lacquer coat, green, detailed jacket, and the persimmon-colored costume.  The overall presentation is stunning and the crux of this artist’s skill.


Read more about Japanese Woodblock Prints:
  Japanese Woodblock Prints   Ukiyo-e   Toyokuni Utagawa   Eisen Kikugawa   Hiroshige Ando   Utamaro Kitigawa

 

Visit our online store for dozens of Japanese Woodblock Prints

Click here to see our current selection.
 
The Great Wave by Hokusai
The Great Wave by Hokusai
Code:fw1002
Price:$27.95
Kabuki by Utagawa
Kabuki by Utagawa
Code:fw1121
Price:$27.95
3 Beauties by Utamaro
3 Beauties by Utamaro
Code:fw1118
Price:$27.95
General in Battle by Utagawa
General in Battle by Utagawa
Code:fw1120
Price:$27.95
Mt Fuji by Hiroshige
Mt Fuji by Hiroshige
Code:fw1010
Price:$27.95
 

 


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