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Artists in the Spotlight: Utagawa Kunisada
Portrait von Utagawa Kunisada Utagawa Kunisada was born in 1786 as Sumida Sh?gor? in Honjo, a district of Edo, now Tokyo, as the son of a ferryman who died shortly after Sumida's birth. The inherited ferry business ensured Sh?gor?'s existence regardless of his artistic career. Sh?gor?'s early sketches made an impression on the head of the Utagawa School: Utagawa Toyokuni (1769 - 1825). Around 1800 Sh?gor? was accepted into the Utagawa School by Toyokuni and was given an artist's name by him, which was partly composed of the name of the school and that of his master: Utagawa Kunisada (borrowed from Toyokuni). With his color woodblock prints, which included large-format prints and book illustrations, Kunisada quickly became the most important artist of the Utagawa school. His first large-format print of 1807 remained an exception for two years. From 1809 onwards, he also produced the prints for which Kunisada became particularly famous: portraits of actors, often in Kabuki costume, and bijingas ("pictures of beautiful women"). Of Kunisada's approximately 20000 color woodblock prints (not counting illustrations for several hundred books), a full 60% are portraits of actors and 15% are bijingas. With his extensive work Kunisada is one of the most productive artists in history. At the same time, he was the trendsetter of his time and had a significant influence on other artists of the Utagawa school.

Scene from a Kabuki play Scene from the Tale of Genji by Madame Murasaki, 1856 The actor Onoe Kikugor III in the role of boshi Yuranosuke, (colour woodblock print) Hanaogi of the Ogiya, Kamuro Yoshino and Tatsuta from a series of courtesans printed in blue Untitled, c.1830 Untitled Unknown aizuri-e print, c.1830 Butterflies and peonies Poem Illustration from a Series of 36, c. 1858 (woodblock print) Poem Illustration, from a series of 36, c.1858 (woodblock on mulberry paper) Poem Illustration from a Series of 36, c. 1858 (woodblock print) Scene from Omagasaki, c.1858 (woodblock on mulberry paper) Poem Illustration from a Series of 36, c. 1858 (woodblock print) Poem Illustration from a Series of 36, c. 1858 (woodblock print) Illustration from The Tale of Genji (colour woodblock print) Woman Putting Out a Light from the series Modern Customs: Frost Beneath the Stars, c. 1820. Poem by Fujiwara no Toshiyuki Ason: Kabuki Actor, c.1859 (woodblock on paper) The Courtesan Shiratama of the Tamaya, c. early 1810s. Woman Standing Beside a Plum Tree, c. 1850. Illustration from The Tale of Genji (colour woodblock print) Nakamura Utaemon III as the Monkey Trainer Yojiro from the series Famous Kabuki Plays, mid-1810s.
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