famous woodblock print artist, Toyoharu, was the very first
artist to take on the Utagawa name, which translates in
English to “River of Song”.
Although to him taking on this name seemed logical,
he would have no clue as to the descendants that would
eventually come out of his art studio.
Keep in mind that when originally founded in the 9th
century, the Utagawa School focused teaching on the
depiction of Kabuki. However,
another genre was born to include portraits of beautiful
women and even warrior prints.
Interestingly, Toyoharu’s most incredible skill
focused on Uki-e, or perspective print.
While many Asian woodblock prints focused primarily
on Asian actors and women of beauty, what made Toyoharu’s
work so incredible and unique was his ability to take
landscapes or landscape objects, coupled with a one-point
perspective based on European prints and turn them into
something with an Oriental flare.
To give you an idea, Toyoharu created some beautiful
were of exotic countries and cities that he never even
in addition to this ability, this artist also painted Edo
settings, pleasure quarters, Kabuki theater, and many famous
sites in the city of Edo, known as Meisho.
While some of the woodblock prints were created in
the traditional style, Toyoharu also produced some with a 3D
effect that could be viewed through special lens.
The result was the deep perspective of his paintings
being over dramatized.
Toyoharu would take these lens and viewers to street
parties and festivals allowing people to view them for a
Toyoharu had exceptional success with all of his creations,
his primary focus was on Ukiyo-e, along with Bijin prints
from the late Harunobu fashion to paintings in a number of
styles to include Kiyonaga Utamaro, and Kitao.
With such versatility and flexibility, this artist
was able to teach some of his students to go with the flow
and be sensitive to opportunities that might be considered
“out of the norm.”
Many talented woodblock painters were taught in the
Utagawa School. For
instance, two of the most prominent students to graduate
with their own unique flavor for art were Toyokuni and
if you can get your hands on any of these three artist’s
work, you would be the proud owner of amazing woodblock
prints or paintings that have a wonderful European
perspective, something you typically would not see with this
form or art.