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TOP > TERRADA MAGAZINE > ART > The art of polychrome of attractive woman and Kabuki actors



The art of polychrome of attractive woman and Kabuki actors

In Edo period by Utagawa Kunisada


Utagawa Kunisada was an ukiyo-e (woodblock print) master in the late Edo period. He is known for yakusha-e, actor portraits depicting kabuki stars, as well as bijin-ga, portraits of beautiful women including ladies of pleasure (oiran) and women of the town. Kunisada’s popularity went beyond that of the legendary masters Katsuhika Hokusai, Utagawa Hiroshige, and his younger disciple Utagawa Kuniyoshi, and his nishiki-e (multicolored woodblock prints) will be shown at this exhibition.

112_02Kunisada is said to have produced a massive number of prints during his lifetime – more than 10,000. His actor portraits captured the hearts of those stars’ fans by faithfully depicting their unique qualities. He sprinkled patterns on the backgrounds for a graphical touch that made the actors look even more striking.

For his female subjects, look out for the fashion ornaments such as glamorous kimonos worn by prostitutes and hatpins, as well as small accessories like beautifully painted dishes. The prints also offer a fascinating glimpse into the everyday lives of Edo people – putting on makeup, shopping, and playing with children.

Since the colors of ukiyo-e paintings can easily fade, the ones featured in this exhibition have been carefully stored by Sheikado Bunko to keep them out of direct light. As a result, they look as vivid as if they had just been printed. One special treat is the large head portraits that depict their subjects from the chest up. The delicate features such as hairlines, eyebrows, and nose lines are spectacular. Genre pictures with three successive panels and many more round out the impressive selection.

(Text: Naoko Aono)

Utagawa Kunisada: Edo People as Seen in Nishiki-e
Dates: January 20 (Sat) – March 25 (Sun), 2018 (Featured works will be alternated)
Venue: Seikado Bunko Art Museum 2-23-1, Okamoto, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Times: 10:00-16:30 Closed Mondays (open February 12), February 13
Admission: 1,000 yen (general)
Contact: 03-5777-8600 (Hello Dial)

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