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
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
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
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
Kunimasa actively painted woodblock prints from 1773
One of his most amazing prints was a heartfelt
tribute to Ebizo when he retired in 1796 from the Kabuki
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.