Untitled (Spring Scenes in a Coastal Town)

Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞 (Japanese, 1786-1864)

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The scene here may be of a visit to a local temple, since the child holds a banner announcing the exhibition of a Buddhist image. The signature indicates a date of around 1844, when Kunisada took over the name of his late teacher, Toyokuni (1769-1825), and proudly announced himself as Toyokuni II. Another Toyokuni pupil, Toyoshige (1777-1835), had already become Toyokuni II, in 1825, soon after the master's death, but, curiously, Kunisada simply disregarded that fact. Despite Kunisada's assertion, today he is referred to as Toyokuni III.

Even more curious is the unattractive appearance of this impression. The composition is uninspired, the registration is poor, and the printing is careless overall. The haphazard nature of the print may be due to a series of edicts issued by the government in the 1840s that were intended to force the public to be more thrifty and virtuous and to correct public mores. These so-called Tempō Reforms particularly affected publishers, since luxury prints were banned, color blocks were limited to eight, and actors and courtesans were deemed unsuitable as subjects for prints. Instead, they were encouraged to publish designs promoting loyalty and filial piety. The kabuki idol Danjūrō VII got into trouble because of these laws, and his property was confiscated, his home demolished, and he was exiled from Edo.

Although discolored, the paper overall is in good condition, with little soiling and very few stains.

Signed Kunisada aratame nidaime Toyokuni ga

国貞改め二代豊国画 (picture by Kunisada, taking the name Toyokuni II)

Object Information

Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞 (Japanese, 1786-1864)
creation date
color woodblock print
No measurement details.
accession number
credit line
Gift of Mrs. Kate Kiser Klein
Public Domain
Asian Art

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