This print is one of nine known designs from a bijin-ga series printed in the 1820s celebrating early ukiyo-e artists. Each print includes a hanging scroll in the background illustrating a beauty identified with a featured artist’s signature. In this composition the hanging scroll depicts a walking courtesan signed by the great ukiyo-e master, Katsukawa Shunshô (1726-1792). Other known prints from the series acknowledge the work of important ukiyo-e artists including Iwasa Matabei (1578-1650), Hishikawa Moronobu (1618-1694), Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671-1750), and Isoda Koryusai (1735-1790).
The Woodblock Print
This 1820s print is in fine condition for its age; minimal edge wear, paper intact, and only minor discolorations in the paper. The greens in the image have faded into blue and the oranges into red, but the image is still strong. A clean verso with full margins.
About the Artist
Utagawa Kunisada I (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 Utagawa Kunisada 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.