Early Japanese woodblock print by Utagawa Kunisada I, later known as Toyokuni III, depicting the actor Sawamura Gennosuke II (who used the name Gennosuke through 1831) as Neshi Seijūrō (根師清十郎) portraying a samurai oppressing a peasant in a scene from kabuki theater in the play “Kawazu gake Soga no honsetsu” performed at the Kawarazki theatre in 1/1831. The lower right corner contains the signature “Gototei Kunisada ga,” the seal of the publisher Matsumura Tatsuemon (active circa 1793-1832), and the kiwame seal (used prior to 1842)
The Woodblock Print
This woodblock print from 1831 is in good condition commensurate with its age; even toning and foxing as shown in the image. Intact with strong colors.
About the Artist
Kunisada Utagawa (1786 – 1865) was a prolific, successful and at his time highly appreciated leading designer of ukiyo-e Japanese woodblock prints. Born near Edo as the son of an affluent merchant with a ferry boat license, at the age of 15 Kunisada joined the famous art school of Utagawa Toyokuni and took the artist name Kunisada.
In 1807 Kunisada Utagawa produced his first illustrated book and in 1808 his first actor prints were published. While other artists like Kuniyoshi Utagawa or Hiroshige had to fight for recognition for years, he was successful from the beginning and would become the most commercially successful of all woodblock printmakers ever. Kunisada designed a wide spectrum of traditional ukiyo-e subjects like kabuki themes, beautiful women, historical events and quite a few shunga prints.