A History of Japanese Colour-Prints/THE PERIOD OF UTAMARO
THE PERIOD OF UTAMARO
1. Yeishi—2. Utamaro—3. Toyokuni.
1. Yeishi.—When towards the year 1790 Kiyonaga retired from the scene, he bequeathed his heritage to three masters, who had already perfected their powers during the eighties, took the lead during the nineties, and continued to hold it until the beginning of the nineteenth century. These three were Yeishi, Utamaro, and Toyokuni. They represent, no longer indeed the greatest strength and richness, yet the extremest refinement of Japanese wood-engraving, more especially Utamaro. Yeishi, as well as Utamaro, introduced a new element into this art of the people, as they both proceeded from the aristocratic Kano school which had been trained on Chinese models. In the place of the charming daintiness with which Harunobu, the heir of the primitives, endowed his women, and the healthy fulness that distinguished Kiyonaga's simple figures, we now meet with a refinement in stature, carriage, and expression which bears witness to a general change in manners and increased demands on life, resulting in a modification of the ideal of beauty. Woman, though she be often only the simple woman of the people or the courtesan, continues henceforth to play, as generally in the Japanese art of the eighteenth century, and in infinitely heightened measure at the end of this period, the chief part in pictorial representations. She always appears as a princess, tall and slender of figure, of queenly carriage and a graciousness all the more captivating for being shy and reserved. To be sure, this tendency soon degenerated into exaggeration, but in its beginnings it undoubtedly served to enrich the scope of art.
Towards the beginning of the tenth decade he had fully perfected his style, which found its chief satisfaction in the composition of large triptychs; Fenollosa (Outline, pl. xiv.) illustrates a print by him in which he makes use of the dull tints of Toyokuni, which remained in fashion to the first decade of the nineteenth century. Towards the end of the century he, too, was unable to withstand the mannerism which had crept in, in consequence of altered tastes, and which about 1800 reached its extreme point in the elongation of the figures and the mask-like, expressionless character of the faces. At the same time, notwithstanding his arbitrary rendering of form, Yeishi always retained an uncommon mastery of drawing.
He is particularly distinguished for his triptychs, restricted mostly to a few sober colours, as the following:—
- The interior of a house in the Yoshiwara (about 1792 according to Fenollosa, No. 294, who designates it as one of his most beautiful works).
- The visit of a lady to a young man.
- A young man surrounded by women near a garden well.
- Young women on a verandah on the sea-shore.
- Four young women on a verandah, overlooking a river full of boats.
- Fishing party in a boat.
- Women playing on musical instruments beneath an umbrella in a pleasure-boat built in the form of a peacock.
- A pathway leading past rice-fields (according to Fenollosa, No. 288, about 1788).
- A lady resting near her carriage under blossoming trees.
- Pentaptych: a youth of rank playing the flute, accompanied by three female musicians.
Among the single sheets there are series of courtesans in outdoor costume; in one of these series, saké-cups are used as a distinguishing mark; in another, rabbits. A series distinguished by flowers depicts young women as representatives of art.
In the book Onna sanjiurokkasen, of 1798, for which Hokusai drew the title-page, Yeishi depicted thirty-six young poetesses of Yedo.
His principal pupil was Yeisho, who was active until the end of the eighteenth century, and who developed a graceful and distinctively decorative talent. His artistic name was Chokusai. He, too, devoted himself principally to the production of triptychs, among them the following:—
- Three women in the interior of a house sitting in front of a screen decorated with a huge Howo bird.
- A young nobleman waited upon by women.
- Young women at a banquet.
- Young girls gathering iris in a garden.
- Under the cherry trees.
An illustrated book of 1798 is mentioned in the Hayashi Catalogue.
Yeisui, whose artistic name was Ichirakute, worked in the first decade of the nineteenth century. Bing's Catalogue cites by him a young man with a falcon. Of Yeiri, Fenollosa cites (Catalogue, No. 392) a painting which he places about the year 1803. His name in art was Rekisentai. According to the Tokio Catalogue (p. 107) he was a pupil of Yeishi, and later, after about 1800, came under the influence of Hokusai.
The Hayashi Catalogue (No. 1002, with illustration) mentions as his pupil Rekisentai Sarin.
Further pupils of Yeishi were: Gokio (Hayashi Catalogue, No. 996: but the Gillot Catalogue calls him a pupil of Sekiyen); Choyensai Yeishin (Hayashi Catalogue, No. 997); Yeiju (ibid., No. 998).
Akin to Yeishi are the following: Soraku, who was also a poet (ibid., No. 999); Tamagawa Shuncho, who is perhaps connected with Buncho: according to Kurth (Utamaro, p. 148), his work is wholly in the direction of Utamaro; Kyritera, by whom there is a print in the Straus-Negbaur Collection in Frankfort, a geisha with two attendants amid blossoming trees, with a hedge in the background.
GIRLS UNDER CHERRY-TREES
2. Utamaro.—Utamaro is the Japanese artist who, after Hokusai, is best known to us. Although the elongated heads of the women with their narrow slits of eyes, hardly perceptible mouths, and huge coiffure which towers upward and broadens out at each side, can give us absolutely no idea of the real artistic ability of the man, since they belong to the time of the complete decay and degeneration of his art into mannerism, nevertheless these pictures, produced by him in hundreds and therefore so widely circulated, must be regarded as characteristic examples of the style and taste which prevailed in Japan about the close of the eighteenth century, and which were mainly due to the influence of Utamaro himself. Art, at that time, had passed during a hundred years through all its various stages, from the powerful-heroic by way of the graceful-delicate to the classically simple beauty of Kiyonaga, the most perfect master of Japan and the immediate predecessor of Utamaro, and was now, at the beginning of the last decade of the eighteenth century, fallen into a state of feverish excitement, which has not unjustly been compared to the close of the nineteenth century in Europe, in its search for new and unheard-of effects. Health and naïveté had been lost, and their places taken by morbid susceptibility which nothing but the extreme of subtlety and refinement could satisfy, even to the dissolution of all natural principles and, in art, the abrogation of all fidelity to nature. As with us, the causes of this phenomenon are not to be sought for primarily in the exigencies of art as such, but in a general change, under stress from without, of the modes of life and thought. In the sphere of art Utamaro now appeared in Japan as the man of destiny, who should actualise all the new powers that were in the air and demanded concrete embodiment. Woman had always played a prominent part in the popular art of the country, but now Utamaro placed one type of the sex in the absolute centre of all attention, the type, namely, of the courtesan initiated into all the refinements of mental culture as well as of bodily enchantment, and then playing in the life of Japan such a part as she must have played in Hellas during the golden age of Greek civilisation. For expressing the inexpressible, the simple rendering of nature did not suffice; the figures must needs be lengthened to give the impression of supernatural beings; they must have a pliancy enabling them to express vividly the tenderest as well as the most intense emotions of the soul; lastly, they must be endowed with a wholly peculiar and therefore affected language for uttering the wholly peculiar sensations that filled them. Utamaro possessed the courage still further to exaggerate these effects even beyond the limits of the possible, until the point was reached when he could go no further, and a gradual relaxation imposed itself as an obvious necessity.
This time of extreme mannerism did not last longer than a decade, from about 1795 to 1805, and was at its height about 1800. Whether we should seek for its causes, with Fenollosa, in a tightening of the reins of government by the Shoguns, the all-powerful rulers of the country, and explain these fantastic excesses as the reaction of free thought against police interference, or whether, as is more probable, the causes of this movement are deeper and more general: at all events, on the artistic side, Utamaro constituted the truest expression of this remarkable era. It does not suffice to compare him, as did Gonse, with the masters of the school of Fontainebleau in the sixteenth century: it is true that the Ricci, Abbate, and Primaticcio drew figures of impossible length, but these had no other than a decorative significance, and were not intended to personify certain recondite thoughts and feelings. On the other hand we should not be far wrong in calling him a decadent, the Parisian of his day; and it is significant that Goncourt, that finely sensitive explorer of the phenomena of decadence in our times, should begin precisely with this artist his series of bio Vever Collection, Paris
R. Wagner, Berlin
graphies of Japanese artists (Outamaro; Paris, 1891). However, we must not omit to notice, in considering the entire sphere of Utamaro's activity, that, over and above his significance for the history of civilisation, he possessed also an artistic significance of unusual importance, manifested for the most part in those productions which appeared before the time of his degeneracy, but sometimes even those of his already thoroughly mannered period. This significance indeed belongs to him not merely as an isolated phenomenon, but, on the contrary, he also plays a great part in the development of Japanese art, both as its guide to new stages, and as fructifier of the whole subsequent period.
- Toriyama Sekiyen gwafu, large sketch-book in several tints, of 1774.
- Gwajikihen, illustrated legends. 1777.
- Hiakki yagio, the hundred monsters of the night (spirits), in black and grey, 1779; also in a reprint.
Besides Utamaro, Sekiyen had the following pupils: Hokujin Fujo (Hayashi Catalogue, No. 922) and Sekijo (ibid., No. 952), who, according to Kurth, were later on both influenced by Utamaro; finally Nagayoshi (Choki), his most important pupil, who will be discussed further on. Kurth (Utamaro, p. 48) also mentions Koikawa Shuncho, who is here placed among Utamaro's pupils as a pupil of Sekiyen.
Only in one of six sheets by Utamaro relating to poems about snow (the Silver World), a landscape printed in imitation of a Chinese drawing in ink, does Goncourt recognise the direct influence of Sekiyen (Outamaro, p. 4, note). Out of love for his master, Utamaro took at first the cognomen Toyoaki. After having exercised himself sufficiently in painting after the manner of the Kano school, he turned all the more decisively to the national Japanese style, the Ukiyo-ye, which had been brought to its highest perfection by Kiyonaga; from this time dates his independent activity.
After having, as it seems, occupied himself chiefly with painting until about 1780, he turned, in the first half of the ninth decade, to the illustration of those small works of popular fiction which, from their yellow covers, are called Kibiyoshi (yellow books). From as early as 1785 on, two pupils collaborated with him, Mitimaro and Yukimaro. All these illustrations were printed in black and white. In the year 1786 his first book of erotic contents was produced in collaboration with Rantokusai, in which he still signs with his own name. From 1787 onward he published, still always in black and white, a series of books of larger size, and at the same time, in 1788, the splendid book of insects, printed in colours, for which his teacher Sekiyen wrote an epilogue attesting his touching love for his pupil and taking, remarkably enough, the form of a eulogy upon the naturalism reintroduced into art by Utamaro. Here, he says, are the first pictures painted with the heart. About this time, which marks his nearest approximation to Kiyonaga, he probably produced the book of shells, finely drawn and coloured with all the subtlety of the later surimono, in which the figures at beginning and end remind us strongly of that master. Kurth (Utamaro, p. 41) assigns it to the period around 1780 (see also his pl. vi.). The third of his books of natural history, the Hundred Screamers (birds), the finest of all his work, probably did not appear until the nineties. Kurth (ibid., p. 76) assigns it to so early a period as about 1789. Utamaro had also announced the publication of a book of mammals and a book of fishes, but these were never executed. In the year 1788 further appeared The Poem to the Pillow, with colour illustrations, the finest of his erotic works; lastly, in 1789, Verses to the Moon, and an erotic volume.
His illustrated books continued in the nineties, but dates more rarely appear. Of those printed in polychrome, except the Testing of the Pines, of 1795; the Flowers of the Four Seasons, of 1801; the Fallen Blossoms, of 1802; and the Green Houses, of 1804, only the Promenade at the Time of the Cherry Blossom and the Silver World bear a date, in both cases 1790. The Silver World is one of his finest works. About this time also he published two series of six sheets each: six children disguised as poets, and the six signboards of the most celebrated saké (rice wine) houses, represented by women, one of his most beautiful creations.
When Kiyonaga, at the beginning of the tenth decade, withdrew from the field, there sprang up between his successors, Shuncho, Yeishi, Utamaro, and Toyokuni, a rivalry for the precedence. Fenollosa names the year 1792 as the acutest period of this strife, from which Utamaro emerged victorious, and thereafter, through more than a decade, bore uncontested sway. While Shuncho and Yeishi, though gifted with strong personalities, were only able to continue the style of the master, and that in a weakened form, and Toyokuni, the youngest of them, with all his talent for colour and elegance, did not possess enough creative power to lead art to higher levels, Utamaro was able to add a new element to what had already been achieved, by further development in the direction of a keenly observant naturalism; landscape especially, which thus far, despite all progress since the primitives, had nevertheless stopped short at more or less carefully executed suggestions, was first fully co-ordinated by him, and thereby attained an independent significance within the design as a whole. In this he showed himself the natural successor of Toyoharu, the pupil of Shigemasa. At the same time he began to be noted as the painter of woman, whom he studied devotedly in every condition, as mother, as maiden, as courtesan, so that his achievements in this province are his most lasting title to fame.
He created an absolutely new type of female beauty. At first he was content to draw the head in normal proportions and quite definitely round in shape; only the neck on which this head was poised was already notably slender. This is the style Vever Collection, Paris
of the beautiful half-length figures on a mica ground which appeared in and after 1790 in several series and are now among the most coveted creations of the master. They show him in close connection with his fellow-pupil, Nagayoshi (Choki), whose work first came before the public about this time. If finally we take into consideration the actor pictures of Sharaku, we are in a position to visualise the salient features of the phase into which Japanese art had passed in 1790, a phase of unique interest, truly aristocratic alike in its draughtsmanship and in its opulent yet delicately graded colouring—a transition phase between the classic figures of Kiyonaga and the exaggerated proportions of the later Utamaro, according to which he is usually judged.
It is true that soon after he yielded to the general tendency of his age, elongated his figures, imparting to them an ethereal, supple, and fragile nature, and gradually insisted on these attributes to exaggeration, even to impossibility, while his fame of having been the first to give such morbid inclinations completely satisfactory and therefore unsurpassable expression is a title of somewhat doubtful value, even if in any case a high historical significance cannot be denied it. Nevertheless we must not forget that within this domain of the hyper-æsthetic, Utamaro was the creator of a most original and individual style. Nay, if we could only admit the morbid and exaggerated to be as fit subject-matter for art as the healthy and sane, we must grant that this style is one of altogether enchanting originality, and that, however dangerous might be its immediate influence upon the spectator and particularly upon possible successors, it does none the less lift us beyond the cramping limits of reality and is therefore not wanting in idealism of a kind.
Towards the middle of the tenth decade these exaggerated proportions of the body had reached such an extreme that the heads were twice as long as they were broad, set upon slim long necks, which in turn swayed upon very narrow shoulders; the upper coiffure bulged out to such a degree that it almost surpassed the head itself in extent; the eyes were indicated by short slits and were separated by an inordinately long nose from an infinitesimally small mouth; the soft robes hung loosely about figures of an almost unearthly thinness. Finally, about the year 1800, Utamaro's tendency toward the bizarre had reached such a height that his heads were three times as long as broad and his figures more than eight times longer than the heads, thus considerably exceeding the normal ratio. In this period were produced the majority of his large female heads, which have spread his name so far abroad, by no means to the advantage of his artistic reputation.
But these exaggerations soon ceased and Utamaro returned to approximately natural proportions of the body. Thus his Chronicle of the Toshiwara, of 1804, in two volumes, the work which justly made him so celebrated, is in no way peculiar in this respect. In the triptychs again, which he produced in greater number than any other artist of his country, these unnatural proportions appear but seldom. Probably, therefore, these sheets were produced for the most part before or after the period of delirium, and the endless file of his single sheets and series representing women during it. One of these triptychs, wherein the dissolute life of the reigning Shogun (Generalissimo and real monarch of Japan), Iyenari, is ridiculed under the figure of the Taiko, an historic personage of olden times, drew down on Utamaro a term of imprisonment which broke his bodily strength. Still, in 1805, he created the beautiful triptych in which a group of children impersonating the Seven Gods of Fortune are drawn by women in a car which has the form of a ship. In the following year, 1806, the Vever Collection, Paris
Vever Collection, Paris
Vever Collection, Paris
artist died. His works probably continued for some time afterwards to be imitated, even with misuse of his name, but were never equalled, much less surpassed.
Utamaro has glorified the Japanese woman with an enthusiasm unexcelled in any other age or nation. It is true that he consecrated his worship to a class of woman that stands outside the pale of society and, despite the splendour that surrounds her, is one of the most unfortunate of all creatures; but he did not depict her as she appears in reality, but formed of her an ideal of nobility and loveliness that stamps her as a goddess. It was not until the age declined to complete degeneracy that he degraded this ideal into caricature. Then it was, too, that in contrast to the usual custom he added those vulgar, burlesque masculine figures which were intended to serve as a foil to their beauty, but which brutally destroy the sweet illusion. The women are represented in the most various occupations. One is painting, another composing poems, a third preparing tea; others again are arranging flowers, smoking out of little silver pipes, playing with a mouse; still others at their toilet, colouring their lips, removing hairs from their faces with a strigil, tying their girdles—at the back when an honourable woman, in front when a courtesan—while sometimes holding with their chins a book in which they have just been reading. The artist is in particular inexhaustible in the depiction of the joys of motherhood. The gorgeous robes in which he clothes them are well in keeping with these queenly figures, and their rich patterns illustrate the entire animal and plant kingdoms. But when necessary he well knew how to keep the ornamentation as simple as possible. Certain patterns, says Goncourt, look as though the beauty had returned from a walk under blossoming trees and had brushed off with her sleeve or shoulder some of the petals.
His eye, incomparably sharpened by the study of nature, enables him to render the hair of women, especially when hanging loosely down during the toilet, with a combined precision and softness within the deep black never elsewhere attained. Particular care was necessary in the printing of his blocks owing to the fineness of the detail, and for the same reason he attached the utmost importance to their colouring. No other Japanese artist understands so well as he how to attain an extremely harmonious and yet rich effect with a few colours, such as grey, light brown, and dark green. Where more lively colours are employed they are modified or combined with each other by a skilful application of green spaces, or else they run gradually into lighter tones and even dissolve into another colour. By quite imperceptibly delicate tinting he contrives to bring out the background or the flesh tones; in his large heads he is fond of using for the background the so-called mica, or dust of mother-of-pearl, which still further enhances the silky gloss of good Japanese paper. In short, he may fitly be called the first colourist of his nation.
Among his compositions, the large representations in several divisions play an important part. Among them is one of eight sheets:—
- A popular festival.
Also one of seven sheets:—
- The procession of the Korean ambassador, represented on the day of the Niwaka (carnival) by geishas with peaked green hats; executed before 1790, according to Kurth, who gives a reproduction of it (pl. 12).
One of six sheets:—
- A wedding and celebrations after the wedding (Hamburg).
Some of five sheets:—
- The boys' festival, with the picture of Shoki, the destroyer of demons and the guardian spirit of boys, on a kakemono.
- The New Year's fair, a boy in the throng holding up a little pagoda.
ACTOR READING ANNOUNCEMENTS FROM A SCROLL BEFORE
- Rain shower, in the middle a pair of lovers under an umbrella.
- Cleaning of a "Green House."
Of three sheets:—
- The dance of a geisha in a nobleman's palace (according to Fenollosa, No. 316, who places it at about 1792, his most beautiful composition).
- Taigo Hideyoshi, the conqueror of Korea, with his five wives; an allusion to the ruling Shogun Iyenari, on account of which Utamaro was thrown into prison.
- A fashionable wedding, in front of the bride three saké-cups.
- Saké, seven kinds of drunkenness depicted by women.
- New Year's day, a woman holding out to other women a skein of thread.
- Daikoku, god of wealth, painting his own likeness, surrounded by women.
- The various processes of wood-engraving.
- Three groups under cherry trees (cited by Fenollosa, No. 344, as characteristic of his latest period).
- Women on a journey, three of them under a mosquito net.
- Gathering kaki (persimmons), very rich and life-like, drawn broadly.
- A prince with basket of shell-fish among salt-carriers.
- The Riogoku Bridge over the Sumida River, with nine women on it.
- Night festival on the Sumida, women and children on the banks are seen against the dark water.
- Women chasing fireflies.
- Snow, moon, and flower, represented by women.
- Women representing the Seven Gods of Fortune, in a boat of which the prow has the shape of a dragon.
- Similar representation, the prow of the boat in the figure of the bird Howo: 1805.
- Children dressed up as the Seven Gods of Fortune on a boat-shaped car drawn by women.
- Spring occupations, in allusion to the Seven Gods of Fortune.
- The pilgrimage to Ise, women wading through the water on the seashore facing the double cliff Meotoiwa.
- The cranes of the Shogun Yoritomo (1190).
- The awabi (shell-fish) girls (diving girls); a print for which 1050 francs was paid at the Burty sale, 1871, and 1300 francs at the Goncourt sale, 1897. In the centre is a woman nursing a child; on the left a woman half undressed, her foot playing in the water with fish swimming about it; behind her a woman standing; to the right is one wringing water out of her clothes, and beside her a companion kneeling by a basket. The half-clad figures, which Goncourt rightly calls un peu mannequinèes, are drawn with uncommon precision; the outlines of the nude are printed in a dark reddish brown.
- Female divers in junks.
Utamaro also published a countless number of series, of which the following may be mentioned:—
- Geishas celebrating the Niwaka Festival, 6 sheets (dating from the seventies?).
- Signboards of the most celebrated saké-houses, represented by women who have at their feet purple mats and stand out against the yellow background; 6 sheets, about 1790.
- The Kamuros of the Yoshiwara, 6 sheets, also a continuation in 7 sheets.
- Courtesans and geishas compared with flowers.
- The five festal days.
- The six arms of the Tamagawa River, women on undulating ground; at the top views on fans.
- The six views of the Tamagawa River, women promenading.
- Women compared with landscapes in the vicinity of the Yoshiwara, 8 sheets.
- The six poetesses.
- Courtesans compared with the six poets.
- The story of the fair Osomi and the clerk Hisamatsu.
- Examples of beautiful women typifying the seven-fold fortune, the gods of fortune each represented by a female figure in a circular frame.
- Half-length figures on a mica ground, two series of ten leaves each (illustrated in Kurth, pl. 17, a girl before a mirror).
- Half-length figures of women in pairs, several series; among them one representing the four seasons, and another of the same kind representing the twelve hours of the day.
- Large heads, more than a hundred sheets.
- Bijin ichisai goyusan tsugi, the fifty-three stations of the Tokaido represented by women, half-length figures, each with a circular landscape in the upper right-hand corner, 55 sheets.
- Seiro Junitoki, the twelve hours of the Yoshiwara (named after animals and corresponding to the twenty-four European hours), each represented by two women, twelve pictures in large folio; probably the most graceful series by this artist, the garments very tasteful and the delicate colours harmonised by a great variety of greys.
- Joshoku kaiko tewagagusa, sericulture, 12 sheets, each depicting about three women, very simple in colour (a description of the process in Goncourt, page 48). Kurth (No. 264) places this series after 1790, and adds that an earlier edition was printed in yellow, green, and violet.
- Komei bijin mitate chushingura, the history of the faithful Ronins represented by the most beautiful women, 12 sheets (on the last sheet a portrait of Utamaro himself); also two other similar sets.
- The four sleepers, with parodies of celebrated old pictures.
- The fortunate dreams, 12 sheets, each representing the head of a dreamer; also of dreaming animals, e.g., an old cat.
- Kintoki, the child of the wilderness, with his mother Yamauba (for this story, dating from about 1000 A.D., see Goncourt, page 58 ff.). Several sheets, which are among the most admirable work of this artist; Kintoki riding on the back of his mother; at his mother's breast; the woman with the chestnut, &c. Kurth (pl. 20) illustrates Kintoki with his hobby-horse; see in Kurth (p. 224 seqq.) the list of these various subjects.
- Tose kodomo rokkasen, children dressed as the six poets, 1790, in subdued colours.
- Parental exhortations, on every sheet a pair of eye-glasses.
Some series of small prints, representing full-length or half-length figures of women, very simple in colour, rank among his most attractive work in virtue of their graceful draughtsmanship and the delicacy of their cutting. As they can scarcely be said to show any trace of mannerism, they were probably produced before 1790. A considerable number came up at the Gillot sale.
Here belong also his sheets in surimono style:—
- The play scene with seventeen actors.
- Five sheets of a series (Gonse Coll. in Paris, see Goncourt, p. 257) and two sheets of the same series (Bing Coll. in Paris).
- Three sheets in narrow vertical form, but not kakemono-ye (Coll. Gillot in Paris, see Goncourt, p. 259).
Of the kakomeno-ye may be mentioned:—
- A woman standing, leaning against a lattice, at her feet crouches another, playing with a casket (Coll. Gillot).
- A woman bending down towards a young girl and carrying a child on her back (Coll. Bing).
- A woman fishing, below a young man in a boat (Bing).
- A young man carrying a young woman on his back.
- Two girls playing the game of Makura-hiki, oblong.
Of single sheets, we may name the following:—
- A young woman crouching allows a white mouse to run over her arm, while another, looking on, holds in her arms a child playing with a wooden horse.
- A woman nursing her child under a mosquito net.
- A mother and child reflected in a basin of water.
- A mother tossing her child in the air (la gimblette).
- The maid of the inn, front and back view, on two sheets made to fit over each other exactly; a magnificent facsimile of this is in Kurth (pl. 24).
- The stationer Jihei abducting Koharu, the singing girl, half-length (la sortie nocturne).
- Benten, the goddess of fortune, appearing to Utamaro (illustrated in Kurth, pl. 11).
Books in black and white:—
- Four prints with songs from plays date from 1776-77, and are signed Kitagawa Toyokira (Hayashi Catalogue, No. 1649). His earliest book is the Hundred Ronins, 20 sheets: Yedo, 1777.
- I. Kibiyoshi (yellow books of small size) from 1780 to 1784, then from 1788 to 1790 (see Goncourt, p. 171 ff.); the earliest is the 800 Lies of Mampachi, 29 sheets: Yedo, 1780.
- II. Books in Mangwa size, 1787-90 (Goncourt, p. 174). Also a book of 1802.
- III. Books of erotic contents, beginning with the Yehon mina mezane (All the World Awakens) of 1786, in collaboration with Rantokusai (Shundo), with delicate half-tones (see Goncourt, p. 263); the Yehon Tamakushige of 1789, printed with especial care.
- According to a personal communication from Kurth, Rantokusai signs together with Utamaro on the last print but two, and alone on the sixth, while Utamaro signs alone on the last.
Books in polychrome:—
- Yehon ginsekai, the Silver World, poems on snow, 5 double sheets with figures, of very great charm, with little gradation in the colours, important for the landscape, 1790.
- Yehon kiogetsubo, poems on the moon, 5 double sheets, landscape compositions with a few figures, 1789.
- Yehon waka yebisu, New Year's Day Customs, 5 double sheets with very spirited figures, exceptionally delicate in colour and very finely cut, 1786 (Kurth, pl. 8).
- Yehon hananokumo, poems on the cherry blossoms (lit. flowers of the clouds).
- Yehon matsu no shirabe, the Testing of the Pines, 1795, several volumes. In this he signs himself Karamaro, i.e. the Chinese Maro.
- Yehon shikinohama, flowers of the four seasons, in 2 vols., 1801; therein an interior during a thunderstorm (Kurth, pl. 37).
- Fugenzo, promenades during the cherry-blossom season, 5 double sheets, 1790.
- Occupations of women according to rank, 16 small sheets (Coll. Duret in Paris).
His principal work is:—
- Seiro yehon nen ju gioji, the events of the year in the Green Houses (Yoshiwara), with the addition: Umpire of the lists for one year; printed in 2 vols., 8vo, for New Year's Day, 1804, one vol. of 12, one of 11 sheets, rich in figures and full of life, but somewhat sombre in colour. Some copies are printed in black and white; as the impressions in these appear much more delicate, Kurth (Utamaro, p. 124) conjectures that the black and white prints formed the first edition, the later issue being coloured to disguise the defects in the blocks. The work was executed with the aid of his pupils, Kikumaro, Hidemaro, and Takimaro. Text by Jippensha Ichiku. The title of the first volume, with a border of an apple twig in blossom and a red camellia, contains the verses of Sandarahoshi: "O pealing bell of morning dawn, didst thou feel the sadness of parting, gladly wouldst thou lie rather than re-echo the six strokes." The title-page of the second volume likewise depicts flowers. The border of the index represents the outer gate of the Yoshiwara. For the description of the single sheets, see Goncourt, page 72 ff. Reproductions in Bing's Catalogue.
Books pertaining to natural history:—
- Momochidori kioka awase, the hundred little screamers (birds), the first edition (dating from the tenth decade?) with 8 double sheets; the second in two volumes with fifteen illustrations. One of the most beautiful polychrome books; blind printing is put to excellent use, e.g., in case of the parts of the bodies of animals that are in water. The ducks, pigeons, cranes, and herons are excellent.
- Mushiyerabi, selected insects, 2 vols., with 15 double plates and a title-page, 1788 (illustrated in Gonse, p. 265). With an epilogue by his teacher, Sekiyen. The contours are not black, but in the colours of the objects represented.
- Shiohi no tsuto, memento of the ebb-tide (poems on shell-fish), 8
Koechlin Collection, Paris
- double sheets (of the ninth decade), beginning with a stroll on the beach, ending with a game of Kaiawase, with girls crouching round a circle formed of shell-fish.
- Representations of foreign birds, 10 sheets (Coll. Gonse in Paris).
- To a book of larger size belong probably: a falcon on a blossoming plum-tree (Coll. Gonse) and a crane by his nest on a pine branch (Coll. Bing).
- Seven sheets with bouquets of flowers belong to a book printed in black and white (Coll. Gillot).
- Two single sheets (Coll. Bing); two crabs with some sea-weed; a chrysanthemum stem and rice straw.
- To a series belong: 1, two flower-boxes; 2, a toad with a lotus-flower in its mouth; 3, a tortoise with the same; 4, a deity holding a flower-vase.
Books of erotic contents:—
- Utamakura, the Poem of the Pillow, 1788; on the first page a goddess of the sea. His most beautiful work of this kind.
- Yenipon hanafubuki, fallen blossoms, 3 vols., 1802.
For the rest, the reader may be referred to the catalogue of Utamaro's works in Kurth, Utamaro, which runs to 530 numbers, as against 285 in Goncourt.
Together with Shunyei he published a series of wrestlers, in which the pairs of female spectators are done by Utamaro. Goncourt (page 186) refers to three works of other artists (Hokusai, Toyokuni, &c), to which Utamaro contributed single sheets.
Strange reproduces, on page 42, a female figure in half-length, and in pl. iv. a similar one in the form of a celebrated poetess. Fenollosa (Outline, pl. xv.) reproduces a not very characteristic print. Other reproductions in Bing's essay in the Studio of 1895.
His pupil, Koikawa Shuncho, married his widow, took his name, and under it continued his master's activity from 1808 to 1820 with the same publishing firm; after 1820 he signed himself Kitagawa Tetsugoro. But his only real successor and pupil is said to be Shikimaro, of whom we have the work—
- Zensei tagu no kurabe (?), a concourse of women in the flower of their beauty.
He, however, is not nearly so refined, nor so delicate in his colour as Utamaro (Goncourt, page 153); he is the author of the series of three prints, each representing an oiran in her out-of-door dress (Hayashi Catalogue, No. 944). His pupils, Mitemaro and Yukimaro, worked with him after 1785 on the yellow books; on the Yoshiwara, from 1804, his pupils, Kikumaro, Hidemaro, and Takimaro. Kikumaro died in 1829; about 1796 he employed the name Tsukimaro; a book by him appeared at Yedo in 1805 (Hayashi Catalogue, No. 1676). Strange, page 44, gives us a reproduction from him of a woman seated, preparing tea. Other illustrations in Hayashi Catalogue, Nos. 936 and 938. This Catalogue has been followed in making both names apply to one artist, whereas in the first edition they appeared as those of two men, on the authority of Anderson (Catalogue, p. 363).
The Hayashi Catalogue mentions the following further pupils of Utamaro: Isomaro (No. 945); Hiakusai Hisanobu (No. 954); Chikanobu (No. 955) and Shintoku (No. 956). Kurth (Utamaro, p. 146) follows Strange in adding Kyosai Chikamaro, who appears to have worked in the manner of Hiroshige.
The following were influenced by Utamaro: Bunro, perhaps derived from Buncho (Hayashi Catalogue, No. 946); Hayami Shungiosai (Riukoku) (ibid., No. 947), a book by whom is mentioned in Duret; and finally Banki (ibid., No. 951).
Vever Collection, Paris
Sharáku: Two Actors. The stouter one in grey and green, the other in brown. Silver ground. Medium size.
Royal Print Room, Dresden
Sharáku: Actor in a Female Part, holding a Bag. Silver ground. Medium size.
according to the Chinese reading (on). He is said to have been Utamaro's fellow-pupil under Sekiyen, but he was probably influenced by Kiyonaga, so that it is not impossible that he was the latter's pupil. At first he also signed himself Shiko and sometimes, later, Yeishosai. About 1790 he came forward with fully developed powers and so closely approached Utamaro in the types which the latter was then employing that it is possible sometimes to confuse him with Utamaro. His slenderly proportioned but always graceful figures are characterised by especial refinement. He gives us pictures of beautiful women in full length, half-length, and head-and-shoulders, on mica backgrounds, and he is in addition remarkable for the beauty and tastefulness of his colouring. It is significant of his connection with Sharaku that he represents on one of his prints a girl with a palm-leaf fan, which contains a likeness of Sharaku (Hayashi Catalogue, No. 923). Later on, as his powers declined, he attached himself to Yeishi. His series entitled Seiro niwaka zensei asobi, Entertainments of the Blossom of the Green Houses, on metal ground, has a reputation. An illustrated book by him appeared at Yedo in 1795 (new edition in 1803). Illustrations in Hayashi Catalogue (Nos. 931, 925).
Kurth (Utamaro, p. 82) states that his name was Saito Inrobei Kabukido Toshusai Yenkyo Sharaku (Hayashi Catalogue), that he began by being a No-dancer to the lord of the southern province of Awa, and that he published several series of actor pictures with the firm of Juzabro in 1790, but was forced to discontinue his work, owing to the indignation caused by his realism.
THE WATERFALL OF YORO
(One of the eight Waterfalls)
dominated art until the middle of the century, and gave it its essential stamp.
Toyokuni was the son of Kurabashi Gorobei, a Buddhist image-carver in Yedo; he first studied the style of Hanabusa Itcho and Giokusan, but went over to Toyoharu and formed his name by taking part of that of the old Toyonobu, as Fenollosa assumes. Unlike Yeishi and Utamaro, therefore, he had no need to familiarise himself with the popular style, but was from the start educated in a conception not over far removed from that of the still dominant Kiyonaga. Toyokuni was without doubt Toyoharu's greatest pupil. He understood how to dispose his mostly very quiet figures in graceful groupings; although his colouring lacks a special originality, yet it was strong and in good taste. After Kiyonaga had given up actor representations, Toyokuni took over this field; he began to depict actors off the stage, in land and water picnics, or in the company of beautiful women; but as he treated these subjects carelessly, this branch of art fell into a temporary decay until his pupils took it up again with renewed energy. Towards the end of the ninth decade he developed his full strength and independence, in a style reminding us of Kiyonaga. The European influence, which had already become noticeable in Toyoharu, his teacher, may be clearly traced in his work also. From the middle of the nineties he began to approach more nearly the style of Utamaro. About 1800 his figures also reached an impossible length, and his faces rounded into a long-drawn oval. He then developed, in rivalry with Utamaro, a peculiar angular style, which reached its height in 1804, and displays him, even in comparison with his former model, Kiyonaga, as a wholly independent artist of a peculiar and austere grace. Except for the time when he, too, was unable to withstand the universal taste for the exaggerated, he retained always a relatively high degree of naturalness; and where he appears unnatural, it is generally to be explained by the affected attitudes of the actors of the time. Later on, however, his works become coarser. He and Kiyonaga were probably the first to make use of the bluish red which introduced a staring tint hitherto unknown to Japanese wood-engraving. There can be no suggestion of their having employed aniline dyes, as these were not put on the market by Perkins until 1856 and probably did not reach Japan until the sixties. Still, we cannot but feel the extreme gaudiness of the general effect, which appears towards the end of the eighteenth century to be a foreign element and a falling off, perhaps under the influence of China, from the older Japanese seriousness of purpose. It is only because this delicate and bright colour-scheme, which correspondingly modifies the yellows and blues as well, has preserved its original freshness in but very few copies, that we do not recognise it more immediately as a characteristic feature of precisely this period.
Immediately after Toyokuni retired from the field, his pupil, Kunisada, about 1810, continued the activity of his master, at first under his own name; about 1844, however, long after his master's death, that is, he assumed Toyokuni's name. A likeness of Toyokuni is found in Kuniyoshi's Fuzoku komeidan, Anecdotes of Celebrated People, two small volumes, in black and white (Kioto, 1840), on the last page.
Like Hokusai, whose first period he lived through, Toyokuni illustrated tales of Kioden, Bakin, and others. With Kunimasa he published, at the beginning of the nineties, a series of actor pictures, for which Utamaro drew the title; in 1801, he published alone a collection of actor pictures of small size, which may be considered about his best work; in 1802, there Bing Collection, Paris
followed the representations of women of all classes. Besides his numerous triptychs, the pleasing picture, in ten small sheets meant to be pasted side by side, of a rain shower driving a throng of people of every trade to seek shelter under a gigantic outspread tree, is particularly celebrated. His landscapes are rare. He also rendered flowers on a large oblong surimono. Illustrations in Strange: plate v., a garden scene, early; on page 48, an actor; on the same, a woman floating a little boat, reminding us of Utamaro. Gonse, i., p. 42: courtesans in a boat (part of a triptych). Fenollosa (Outline, pl. xvi.) reproduces a print of his decline.
Of his triptychs the following may be cited:—
- Snow scene, a lady, of rank with her little daughter making snowballs; dated by Fenollosa (No. 348) about 1798; perhaps his most beautiful work of the kind.
- A lady of rank on horseback with attendants, Fuji in background; a very beautiful composition, in subdued colours: yellow, violet, black, and a little green.
- The ford, a lady of rank carried in a palanquin by eight men.
- The gust of wind.
- Women as gods of fortune in a ship, the prow of which has the shape of a white cock.
- Actors and women in a boat on the river; dated by Fenollosa (No. 353) about 1805.
- Washerwomen at the whirlpool.
- Haul of fish on the shore.
- The bath; according to Fenollosa (Nos. 351, 352) about 1803.
- The banks of the Sumida River at the bridge of Riogoku.
- A fan shop, in front a boy playing with five puppies; dated by Fenollosa (No. 338) about 1789; one of the best of his early period.
- The rat-dream; according to Fenollosa, about 1794.
- Three actors (Catalogue Duret, No. 91).
- Scene in a temple garden, dated by Fenollosa (No. 342) about 1800. In collaboration with his pupil Toyohiro.
- Pentaptych: main street of the Yoshiwara in cherry blossom time; dated by Fenollosa (No. 341) about 1792.
- The rain shower, 10 small sheets; among those seeking shelter under the giant tree in the middle of the long design are a young nobleman with a falcon, a young girl trying to cover his hair, a washerwoman, a man with a monkey, a faggot carrier, and several blind people,-who have fallen down in their haste (Bing Catalogue, No. 208).
- Views of the environs of Yedo, 8 sheets, quarto, dating from the beginning of the century (Catalogue Leroux).
- The six Tamagawa rivers, in circles, only slightly coloured.
- The six celebrated poets, in pairs.
- Courtesans in the likeness of Komachi, 7 sheets, medium size.
- Haiyu raku richutsu (?), pictures of Yedo actors, in collaboration with Kunimasa, beginning of tenth decade; the title by Utamaro, representing the implements of the No-dance; by the same is an actor seated, smoking and watching three women leaving the theatre.
- Yakusha konotegashiwa, collection of celebrated actors, 2 small vols., Yedo, 1801; perhaps his best work.
- Yehon imayo sugata, the manners of the present time, women of all classes, 2 vols., coloured, 1802; in the first volume respectable women, in the second, those of the Yoshiwara, &c.
- Toyokuni toshidamafude, reminding one of Hokusai's Mangwa.
- Yehon Yedo no mizu, Yedo, 3 vols., black and white.
- Yobo shashin sangai kio, Recreations of Actors, Yedo, 1801, 2 vols.; excellent in colour.
- Bakino, Comparison of the Theatres with Famous Places, 1800, 2 vols.; humorous.
- History of Princess Sakura, a romance by Kyoden, Yedo, 1806, 5 vols.
- Yakusha awase kagami, Actors, Yedo, 1804.
- In collaboration with Shunyei he published a work at Yedo in 1806; in collaboration with Toyohiro: Otagi Kanoko, 12 coloured pictures, Yedo, 1803.
His best pupil was his brother, Toyohiro, who developed a peculiar manner, and later had the privilege of training the great landscape painter Hiroshige. Of Toyokuni's pupils, Kunisada (later Toyokuni II.), and Kuniyoshi, both of whom will be Royal Print Room, Dresden
mentioned later, attained the widest celebrity. Pupils of his early period were Kunimasa (see above) and Kuniyasu (Hayashi Catalogue, No. 1092), who produced especially actor prints, but whose works are rare. Kunimasa lived from 1773 to 1810; he also signed himself Ichiyusai. Illustrated in Hayashi Catalogue, No. 1088; Duret (No. 267) mentions one book. His son, Naajiro, was also his pupil; he first took the name Toyoshige, but later adopted his father's name, so that he must be carefully distinguished from Toyokuni II.; sometimes he signs himself Gosotei Toyokuni. His style is reminiscent rather of Yeisen than of his father.
Toyohiro's chief single sheets are:—
- The abduction of Otoku by Fukusuke; medium size.
- A young girl in the snow; dated by Fenollosa (No. 350) about 1801; his most beautiful and characteristic work.
- An actor in the rôle of a Kashira, with a large umbrella.
- A branch of blossoms in wicker basket on lacquer stand.
- Gathering persimmons in the presence of a young prince; dark tones.
- The crossing in a ferry-boat, containing several blind people.
- Supper on a terrace facing the river.
- Kengu irigomi sento shinwa (?), 1802, black and white.
- Fuku nezumi Shiriwo no Futozawo, the lucky rat, 1804, in colour.
- Sunden jitsujitsuke (?), romance by Bakin, 1805, 5 vols., black and white.
- Katakiuchi sembonzakura, fantastic stories, 1809, black and white.
- Tosei shoriu ika bonedzu, bouquets, excellent in draughtsmanship and colour (Berlin Kunstgewerbemuseum). Duret (No. 219 seqq.) mentions works of 1793 and 1807.
Reproductions:—Anderson, Japanese Wood-Engraving, No. 22; Strange at p. 46.
Further pupils of Toyokuni are mentioned by the Hayashi Catalogue: Kuninaga (No. 1090); Kunimitsu (No. 1091); Kuninao (No. 1093); Utagawa Yoshimaru (No. 1096).
Utagawa Toyomaru is mentioned as having done actor pictures about the year 1800 (Bing Catalogue, No. 233). A book illustrated by him appeared at Yedo in 1798. Illustration in Hayashi Catalogue (No. 1052). Sekko (Gillot Catalogue) and Raisen (Gillot Catalogue, print with two dates) worked at the same time as Toyomaru.
Bing Collection, Paris
- Fenollosa Cat., Nos. 284-299; Anderson, Japanese Wood-Engraving; Bing Cat., No. 331 ff; Goncourt Cat. The Gillot Cat. mentions as his teacher Michinobu, of the Kano school.
- Fenollosa Cat., No. 300 f.; Bing Cat, No. 350 ff.
- Fenollosa Cat., No. 302.
- Fenollosa Cat., No. 305; Goncourt, Outamaro, p. 4; Anderson Cat., p. 344.
- Goncourt, Outamaro, 1891; Bing in the Studio, 1895; Fenollosa Cat., Nos. 305-336; Anderson Cat., p. 345; Cat. Burty, p. 219 ff.; Bing Cat., No. 362 ff.; Cat. Goncourt. The year of birth has been corrected as against Goncourt (1754).
- Compare the New Year's Procession, or Carnival of Marduk, among the recently excavated Ai-ibar-shabu of Babylon. A. H. D.
- Yoshiwara, the courtesan quarter of Yedo, was founded in 1600 by Shoji Jinyemon near the palace of the Shoguns. After the great fire of 1657, it was changed to its present site in the northern part of the city and surrounded by moats. A single gateway forms the entrance to this quarter, which is divided into many parts by intersecting streets. The tea-houses are situated along the main thoroughfare. In the "Green Houses" lived the courtesans, who had received the most perfect education, like princesses, and spoke a peculiar, old-fashioned language. Each one of these Oirans had two young attendants, Kamuros; as soon as these reached a certain age, they, too, were promoted to the rank of Oiran. The Geishas (playing and singing girls) formed an entirely different class and were obliged to live an honourable life.
- Strange, p. 44; Kurth, Utamaro, p. 49.
- Fenollosa Cat., No. 303; Kurth, Utamaro, p. 84 seqq.
- Anderson Cat, p. 345; Fenollosa Cat., No. 357; Bing Cat, No. 311 ff.
- Anderson Cat., p. 348; Strange, p. 47; Fenollosa Cat., Nos. 337-356; Bing Cat., No. 199 ff.; Cat. Goncourt, No. 1283 ff.; Cat. Burty, No. 258; Goncourt, Outamaro, pp. 187, 103 ff. The biographical dates are corrected according to the Hayashi Cat.
- Reproduced in Burty's Cat., No. 65.
- Anderson Cat., p. 347; id., Japanese Wood-Engraving; Fenollosa Cat., Nos. 344a, 350; Cat. Burty, No. 182 ff.; Bing Cat., No. 183 ff.