UTAGAWA KUNISADA (1786–1865)

Kunisada was extremely popular in the ukiyo-e world.  Everyone wanted to buy his incredibly popular portrait of the Kabuki actors, and the men wanted his pictures of the beautiful courtesans.

When Kunisada portrayed beautiful women, they were always dressed in the latest fashion, with the latest hairstyles and makeup, which inspired contemporary women. Kunisada portrayed women of all ages, in a lively and compelling way. These women portraits rarely had individual traits, Kunisada spent more time on clothes and details. A beautiful woman was a beautiful woman, but with small lines he could convey a feeling or expression. The Kabuki actors, on the other hand, were much more individually portrayed. Kunisada was a celebrated artist throughout his professional career, living a glamorous life with the leading kabuki actors, some of whom were his closest friends. Kunisada's portrayal of actors therefore showed not only the role / character, but also the actor behind it.


Kunisada was the son of a timber salesman who also owned parts of a ferry company. When he was around 15-16 years, Kunisada began as an apprentice to the master Toyokuni. (10 years later he would be joined by Kuniyoshi, which was the beginning of a lifelong competition between the two artists.)

Kunisada's father had funds, so the school fees were paid without any problems. Toyokuni had a good eye for the young student and Kunisada soon began to publish his own print depicting beautiful women and kabuki actors.


Kunisada initially took his master's name, both Toyokuni II, and Toyokuni III, when he considered him to be the successor of the master, even though Toyokuni's adopted son Toyoshige claimed Toyokuni's name. Kunisada also took many students, and utilized the work of the studio effectively, producing thousands of popular prints and becoming the foremost and most esteemed artist of his time.

 
 
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