Toyohara Kunichika – Collections of Famous Products, the Pride of Tokyo (B)


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Kunichika, Toyohara


(A) Very Fine Condition








Morimoto Janzaburo


Oban (10"x15")


Story, Women / Geisha

A fascinating example of an early modern advertisement. It is interesting to note the addition of a beautiful woman as a marketing ploy to an advertisement that is more than 100 years old.

This ambitious series of 103 harimaze-e presents assemblages of mitate (parody or comparisons), likening textile patterns to famous places and things in Edo and Tokyo. Along with Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) and Baiso Kaoru (active ca. 1887-1896), artists contributing designs to the series include Utagawa Kunisada III (1848-1920), Ayaoka Yushin (1846-1910) and Utagawa Kokunimasa (1874-1944). Published by Fukuda Kumajiro from 1896-1897, each composition is comprised of three sections: a famous store accompanied by an advertising kyoka poem by the writer Senshu An at the top, a portrait of a female artist or geisha by Kunichika and others at lower right, and a mitate moyo (kimono pattern parody) design by Baiso Kaoru at lower left. The fan-shaped cartouche below the series title identifies the name of rakugo (comic storyteller) or kodan (traditional storyteller) performers and yose (spoken vaudeville) theater artists.

The Woodblock Print

A lovely oban-sized woodblock in very fine condition; this print is unbacked but on thicker paper, intact margins, and a clean verso. Very minor edge wear. Beautiful, soft color.

About the Artist

“Since I am tired of painting portraits of people of this world, I will paint portraits of the King of hell and the devils.”

Born in 1835, Toyohara Kunichika grew up in the Kyobashi district of Edo in the midst of merchants and artisans. In 1848, at age 13, he was accepted as an apprentice into the studio of Utagawa Kunisada I (Toyokuni III 1786–1865). Kunichika’s work stands in contrast to that of many of his contemporaries as he persistently held onto the traditional style and subject matter of the classic Japanese woodcut, unaffected by new Western forms of art. His love of Kabuki inspired him to depict actors in their various roles and varying facial expressions. His skillful use of color and ability to translate the actor’s depth of emotion onto the page makes his work some of the most dramatic ever produced. Later on in his career, Kunichika turned primarily to the triptych format as the increased size gave him the space to fully portray the drama and action of the characters represented.

Kunichika was known as one of “The Three Greats of Meiji Ukiyo-e”, along with Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892) and Kiyochika Kobayashi (1847-1915)