Toyohara KUNICHIKA (1835-1900)

KUNICHIKA

Toyohara KUNICHIKA (1835 – 1900) was a student of Utagawa Kunisada (also known as Utagawa Toyokuni III). Starting his career during Edo Period (1603 – 1868), Kunichikas works are next to woodblock prints by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi and Kobayashi Kiyochika the most characteristic for the Meiji Era (1868 – 1912).

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One of Kunichika’s major theme is kabuki actors and scenes from popular kabuki plays. It is said, that Kunichika himself was a great connoisseur of kabuki drama. Some of his best-known series are: Ichikawa Danjuro engei hyakuban (One hundred Roles of Ichikawa Danjuro), Haiyu shiranami atari no tsuwamono (Great Heroes in Robber Plays) and Satomi hakkenshi no uchi (The Eight Dog Heroes of Satomi). He also created the new subgenre Ōkubi-e or Ōgao-e where only the actor’s head is shown. By using the Triptych size it seems like a wide screen view on a kabuki stage.

But Kunichika also worked on many series of beautiful women (bijin-ga). For example: Zen aku sanjuroku bijin (Thirty-six Good and Evil Beauties), Seiro Awase Sanju-roku ku (Yoshiwara beauties compared with thirty-six poems), Tosei mu tamagao (Six Modern Jewel-like Faces) and Mitate Chuya Nijuyoji no Uchi (The Twenty-four Hours Parodied).

During his whole life Kunichika and his woodblock print designs were very popular. His choices in strong colour (deep purple and bright red) was highly controversial.

Kunichikas best-known student was Toyohara Chikanobu.

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