Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/343

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THE PERIOD OF UTAMARO

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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.[1] 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,

  1. 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.