Utagawa Kuniyoshi – Station Warabi; Inuyama Dosetsu, from Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaido

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Additional information

Artist

Kuniyoshi, Utagawa

Condition

(A) Very Fine Condition

Date

1840s-1860s

Edition

First Edition

Movement

Ukiyo-e

Publisher

Izutsuya Shokichi

Size

Oban (10"x15")

Subjects

Landscape, Samurai / Warrior, Story

With its phoenix-like flames, billowing smoke and fabric, this design is far and away the most dramatic of the series “69 Stations of the Kisokaido” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. In this series Kuniyoshi follows in the footsteps of Hiroshige and others doing the stations of the famous roadways, but unlike the other artists he reduces the stations to a tiny inset and makes them more the index than the subject.

Kuniyoshi portrays the hero Inuyama Dosetsu from the Tale of Eight Dogs epic (Hakkenden). Dressed as a wandering priest, Dosetsu conjures magic as he sits unscathed in the middle of a raging fire.

The series, Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaido

Created by Utagawa Kuniyoshi between 1852-1853, Sixty-nine Post Stations of the Kisokaidô Road (Kisokaidô rokujûku tsugi, 木曾街道六十九次之内) is a dynamic series consisting of 72 prints, 69 prints depicting a different station along the Kisokaido highway along with Edo and Kyoto (the two end cities) and a title page.

The Kisokaidô Road was an inland route connecting Edo (present day Tokyo) with Kyoto. (The costal route between Edo and Kyoto was the Tôkaidô Road). There were sixty-nine rest stops along the Kisokaidô Road. The main design of each print portrays a historical, legendary of fictional scene associated with the location. A small panel in each print shows a view of the station. Most of the prints are numbered, but there are slight inconsistencies in the numbering. The prints in this series are each about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ôban. You can view the complete series here.

The Woodblock Print

This oban-sized woodblock is in very fine to excellent condition; trimmed of its margins as is typical, this print has exceptional color and detail. Professionally backed with thin washi paper, limited edge wear. No creases or stains. A few small pin-prick holes.

About the Artist

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川 国芳, January 1, 1798 – April 14, 1861) was a Japanese artist who was active during the Edo period, from the late 18th to mid-19th century. He was born in 1797 in Edo, which is now Tokyo, and was the son of a silk-dyer. Kuniyoshi was known for his bold and dynamic ukiyo-e prints, which depicted a wide range of subjects, including historical scenes, kabuki actors, and mythical creatures.

Kuniyoshi began his artistic training as an apprentice in a print shop, where he learned to design and carve woodblocks. He later studied under the ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Toyokuni, who was a prominent figure in the Edo period. Kuniyoshi developed his own distinctive style, which was characterized by bold lines, vibrant colors, and exaggerated forms.

Kuniyoshi’s prints were highly popular during his lifetime, and he was considered one of the leading artists of the Edo period. His depictions of kabuki actors, in particular, were highly sought after by collectors, as they captured the essence of the dramatic performances that were popular in Japan at the time.

One of Kuniyoshi’s most famous series of prints is the “One Hundred and Eight Heroes of the Suikoden,” which depicts the exploits of a group of Chinese bandits. The series was highly influential and inspired other artists, including the French Impressionist Edgar Degas. Kuniyoshi also created prints that depicted historical events and legends, which were notable for their vivid colors and dynamic compositions.

Despite his success as an artist, Kuniyoshi faced challenges in his personal life. He was accused of producing prints that were critical of the shogunate, which led to him being placed under surveillance by the government. He was also deeply affected by the death of his son, which led to a decline in his health and artistic output.

Kuniyoshi died in 1861 at the age of 63, but his legacy lives on. His prints continue to be highly regarded for their technical skill and artistic merit, and they are housed in major art institutions around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the British Museum in London.

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