Originally published in 1797 with the full title “Awabitori Abalone Divers”, from the series “Women’s Handiworks,” this is a Showa era (mid-1900s) edition printed from recarved woodblocks. This oban triptych (each panel a full oban without margins) is the famous composition by Utamaro of fisherwomen who dive for abalone, and is among the most well known triptychs in all of Ukiyo-e.
The Woodblock Prints
Comprised of three oban-sized woodblocks, with each image taking up the full sheet of paper, this triptych is in very good condition. Strong color and without any blemishes to the images, they form a large and stunning triptych that can be framed as a solid unit, a solid unit with separators, or as three individual framed pieces hung in proximity. There is reside of tape on the verso from being framed, but this does not affect the images themselves.
About the Artist
Born in 1753 (to 1806), Kitagawa Utamaro is best known for his slender and graceful bijin-ga, or “pictures of beautiful women,” Renowned for his ability to subtly capture the personality and private lives of Edo’s women, from courtesans to mothers, Utamaro’s enormous popularity was not limited to Japan. During the 19th century, Utamaro entranced Western artists and collectors with his designs; Mary Cassat was particularly taken by Utamaro’s work, exclaiming, “you who want to make color prints, you couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful.”
The scholar and artist Sekien served as Utamaro’s teacher until Seiken’s death in 1788. While the influence of Kiyonaga coursed through Utamaro’s early woodblock prints, his unique style soon asserted itself. A prolific artist, he also produced illustrated books and paintings. Around 1791, he directed his focus to half portraits of women on their own, rather than the full-length, group designs that dominated the genre of bijin-ga.