Utagawa Kuniyoshi:biography, ukiyo-e prints of samurai and other artworks

Utagawa Kuniyoshi(1797-1861)

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳) was one of the ukiyo-e artists who worked extensively as a member of Utagawa School, along with Hiroshige (広重) and Kunisada (国貞).

 

Self portrait of Utagawa Kuniyoshi

 He established a unique world not found in other ukiyo-e artists. His talent of paint could be compared to Katsushika Hokusai(葛飾北斎). And thorough the life, he was a totally opposite person to Kunisada.

 

 

Biography

Long early days

 Kuniyoshi was born as a son of a dyeing shop in Nihonbashi, Edo. He was interested in painting from his young age and used to practice paintings as imitating the artworks of Kitao Shigemasa(北尾重政) and Kitao Masayoshi(北尾政美).

 

 When he was 15, he became a disciple of the first Utagawa Toyokuni(初代歌川豊国). However, unlike Kunisada, as a typical aggressive Edo person, he often did not match with his master.

 

Kunisada had already made his debut and attracted attention. Comparing with the senior disciple, Kuniyoshi had a hard time finding a publisher who publishes his own painting for more than 10 years. But he had continued practicing to draw.

 

Learn about ukiyo-e!

 

“Musha-e artist, Kuniyoshi”

A turning point came to him in 1827. In this year the story of China “Water Margin” was booming among the people of Edo. During that time, “The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden” that he drew skipped a hit.

 

Kanchikotsuritsu Shuki from “The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden”

 

Gyokkirin Roshungi from “The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden”

 

 

Kyumonryu shinshin and Chokanko Chintasu from “The 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden”

 

 

 

 

Especially, the impact and vividness of their tattoo took the Edo people captive and he also made the design.

 

 

He finally got an evaluation that his paintings of warriors(Musha-e) was outstandingly wonderful and the nickname “Musha-e artist, Kuniyoshi”. Also from this time, he began to show his talent not only in Musha-e painting but also in landscape paintings, beautiful women portraits, and caricatures. 

 

Chushingura,The night-attack

 

Original style

In 1873, he married Saito Sei (斉藤せゐ). And just then he changed his drawing name from “Ichi yu-sai” (一勇斎) to “Cho-ou-rou” (朝桜楼). 

 

He had a nice personality and more disciples than any other ukiyo-e artist. Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (月岡芳年) was one of his, and Kawanabe Gyosai (河鍋暁斎) also learned painting at Kuniyoshi School when he was 7 years old.

 

He pursued his own style greedily even after he succeeded as an ukiyo-e painter. The first of his characteristics is a strong impact. Especially the warriors, the youkai(monsters), the animals appearing in his paintings have the power that they are likely to start moving.

 

The second his feature is a caricature that devised the idea. He was an artist with playful and rich ideas to entertain the Edo people who buy pictures, and furthermore, he dodged the eyes of the shogunate to satirize society. 

 

As a last, he found a new way of drawing three successive pictures. Until then it was usual to draw a picture for one paper and to arrange them, he joined all the papers into a single. That made his painting more powerful.

 

Gallery of Kunihoshi’s artworks

 

Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s goldfish ukiyo-e prints(Kingyo zukushi)

 

Musha-e(samurai picture)

 

Giga(caricature) and cat

 

 

Fish, animal, bird, and imaginary creature

 

 

 

Various three successive pictures(triptyches)

 

 






 

 

Books about Utagawa Kuniyoshi

 

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Utagawa Kuniyoshi: The Edo-Period Eccentric (Hardcover)

Recognized as one of the most interesting and vibrant artists of the Edo period, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861) is a major exponent of ukiyo-e. His fame is tied to the series of polychrome xylographs that illustrate the 108 heroes from the novel Suikoden (Brigands), a late-18th-century bestseller in China and Japan that described a band of brigands who defend those oppressed by injustice and government corruption. The book conjures imagery of violent, powerful warriors with muscular tattooed bodies?imagery that today inspires manga, anime, tattoo artists and illustrators across the world. Kuniyoshi embraced the genre of warrior prints, but he was also interested in portraits of female beauties, kabuki actors, landscapes, children and ghosts, another greatly admired genre in Japan. Nonetheless, his name is above all associated with Arcimboldo-like composite figures, figures within figures and parodies of stories and battles. His images are fantastical, baroque, rich in color and detail, with imposing characters and dynamic actions. This book surveys the work of a versatile and intriguing figure whose impressive technique birthed a school that continued for generations.


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Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s 47 Ronin (Paperback)

This is a story of loyalty, obstinacy and unusual honor, carried out by 47 Samurai to avenge the death of his master. To avenge him, these Samurai carefully planned the attack for almost two years, even leading a common life of workers and traders, many of them living a lazy and idle life in order to outwit his enemies. Even though everyone should commit “seppuku” (ritual suicide) if the mission were to materialize, the Samurai went ahead and avenged their master. In this book were used prints and traditional Japanese Mino washi (Mino paper, originally created in the Nara period in the eighth century A.D.) scanned in high definition, with the purpose of recreating the atmosphere of Japanese high visual refinement. The 131 illustrations in this book are by master Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861), one of the greatest of the art school of Japanese woodblock Ukiyo-e.

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Kuniyoshi X Kunisada (Hardcover)

Rival ukiyo-e masters Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861) and Utagawa Kunisada (1786–1865) were the two most admired designers of figure prints in 19th-century Japan.

Famous for the realism of his portraits of Kabuki actors, the sensuality of his beautiful women and the luxurious settings he imagined for historical scenes, Kunisada was the popular favorite during his lifetime. Kuniyoshi is loved by connoisseurs and collectors today for his dynamic action scenes of warriors and monsters (which foreshadowed present-day manga and anime), his comic prints and even a few especially daring works that included forbidden political satire in disguise. With glorious full-color illustrations, this beautifully produced volume presents Kuniyoshi and Kunisada’s artistic rivalry through a selection of outstanding works from the unparalleled Japanese art collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


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Outlaw Swords Of Death: Warrior & Hero Designs 1825-45 (Ukiyo-e Master Series) (Paperback)

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) is regarded as one of the true masters of ukiyo-e, the populist art of Edo-period Japan. Kuniyoshi produced thousands of prints and designs during his lifetime, but is perhaps best-known for his musha-e (“warrior prints”), with which he came to prominence around 1830. Kuniyoshi’s series 108 Heroes Of The Suikoden was revolutionary in its dynamics, colour and visual violence, establishing the delirious, almost proto-psychedelic style with which the artist would recreate archetypal heroes, outlaws and renegades from Japanese history and legend over the ensuing decades.

“Outlaw Swords Of Death” collects over 160 of Kuniyoshi’s most striking and innovative early musha-e designs, presented in large-format and full-colour throughout. The collection includes all 74 prints in the series 108 Heroes, and also a wide selection of the most dynamic images from his follow-up series 800 Heroes (1830-36), amongst numerous other examples of the genre in which Kuniyoshi remains unsurpassed. The designs range in date from around 1825 to 1845, his most productive and successful period. Many of these images became standard tattoo designs for fire-fighters and yakuza gangsters.

The Ukiyo-e Master Series: presenting seminal collections of art by the greatest print-designers and painters of Edo-period and Meiji-period Japan.


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Cats in Ukiyo-e: Japanese Woodblock Print (Japanese, Japanese and Japanese Edition) (Tankobon Softcover)

This book is a collection of Kuniyoshi’s works that featured cats. It will attract ukiyo-e lovers, cat lovers, and also provides valuable inspiration to designers or illustrators.

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Animals by Kuniyoshi: Ukiyo-e Paper Book (Japanese Edition) (Tankobon Hardcover)

In old Tokyo, known as “Edo” during the early modern period, fashion sheets and entertainment magazines came in the form of “Ukiyo-e” (“pictures of the floating world”). There were many Ukiyo-e shops in Edo, which sold various woodblock prints, just as news agents or book shops sell magazines or posters today. Each Ukiyo-e print was sold individually to customers, who bought these beautifully printed sheets on beautiful Japanese paper to learn the most up-to-date trends of the day, and who also sometimes enjoyed them as artworks or as interior decor by displaying them on their walls.

Following the success of Cats by Kuniyoshi and Surprise! by Kuniyoshi, this new title showcases 60 art reproductions of various animals featured in the woodblock prints of the outstanding Ukiyo-e master, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861). Sparrows, foxes, whales, goldfishes, octopus and many other animals are depicted humorously and satirically alongside human subjects.

For added interest, each of the 60 prints can be removed easily, offering today’s readers a fun and authentic way to appreciate Ukiyo-e. The simple, yet unique, design on the back side of each page offers readers even more creative ideas. (English/Japanese Bilingual text)


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