Utagawa Kuniyoshi – Menju Sosuke Ieteru, from the series Heroes of the Great Peace

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Additional information

Artist

Kuniyoshi, Utagawa

Condition

(B) Fine Condition

Date

1840s-1860s

Edition

Lifetime

Movement

Ukiyo-e

Publisher

Ibaya Sensaburo

Size

Oban (10"x15")

Subjects

Samurai / Warrior, Story

From the series Taiheiki eiyuden 太平記英勇傳 (Heroes of the Great Peace), No 16.

In this scene depicted in Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s woodblock print “The Warrior Menju Sōsuke Ieteru,” the warrior Menju Sōsuke Ieteru is shown engaged in combat as he attempts to rescue the battle standard of Katsui. With unwavering determination, Menju Sōsuke is depicted amidst the chaos of battle, his focus squarely on retrieving the standard to safeguard his clan’s honor. With his sword drawn and his stance resolute, he maneuvers through the tumult of the battlefield, risking life and limb to achieve his noble objective. The intensity of the scene underscores the urgency of Menju Sōsuke’s mission as he valiantly fights to uphold the honor and dignity of his clan. Through Kuniyoshi’s masterful composition, Menju Sōsuke’s heroic endeavor is immortalized, symbolizing the unwavering loyalty and martial prowess of a true warrior.

Fifty-three Pairings for the Tôkaidô Road

Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s woodblock print series “Heroes of the Great Peace,” published around 1847-1848 by the esteemed publisher Ibaya Sensaburō, stands as a testament to the artist’s mastery in capturing the valor and heroism of Japan’s legendary warriors. This series, created during the Edo period, portrays iconic figures from Japanese history and folklore who played pivotal roles in maintaining peace and order during times of turmoil. Through dynamic compositions and vibrant colors, Kuniyoshi brings to life the martial prowess and unwavering loyalty of these heroes, immortalizing their deeds for generations to come. From mythical samurai to historical generals, each print in the series serves as a visual homage to the indomitable spirit of the warriors who contributed to the stability and prosperity of Japan during this era of great upheaval.

The Woodblock Print

This oban from 1847 is in fine to very fine condition for its age. Strong color, even toning, a mostly clean verso. No margins, which seems to be the standard for this print and series.

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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