Eizan Kikugawa, Abuna-e, Smoking


Artist: Eizan Kikugawa (1787-1867)
Title: Abuna-e, Smoking
Date: c. 1800s -1830s
Dimensions: 38.6 x 26 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

Abuna-e refers to suggestive and sensual images, a substratum of the more explicit shunga [lit. spring pictures]. In Japan, the late eighteenth century saw such imagery banned under new laws, forcing artists who still desired to produce them to leave their works unsigned. Although these designs may appear rather innocuous, some contemporaries considered abuna-e more erotically charged due to their workings on the imagination. As a successor of Utamaro Kitagawa's style, Eizan continued the portrayal of an idealised female beauty whilst infusing it with own character. Eizan's courtesan seductively smokes her kiseru pipe as she rests herself on her client. A thick kakebuton just about covers them, lending warmth and further intimacy to the scene. Despite the contrasting interplay of patterns and fabrics, Eizan's design is markedly composed, finding balance in the simplicity of line and form.

Eizan Kikugawa (1787 - 1867)

Within Japanese Art, Eizan Kikugawa is often referred to as one of the great masters of the beauty print genre, but this has not always been the case. He is believed to have started quite young, mostly creating beauty prints in Utamaro’s style in the beginning. Later in life, Eizan discovered his own style, while still showing the influence of Utamaro in the sensitivity, expressive sensuality and erotic charm of his work.
Eizan supposedly produced his first proper work in his teen years. It went on to be published, which is an unusual accomplishment. It is also believed that he managed to become an accomplished artist by the age of 21. A particular artistic innovation, the scroll format, which is a vertical oban diptych that was popular in the late 1830s, is thought to have been invented by this artist. The craft of woodblock printing lay in Eizan’s family. He was born as a son of Eiji Kikugawa who was a Kano-style painter. Studying with his father, and with Suzuki Nanrei later on, Eizan was also influenced by the works of Hokkei. The latter was an old friend of Eizan and the student of another master of ukiyo-e, Hokusai. Eizan himself had a few students, none of whom achieved the same heights of fame as their teacher, with the exception of Eisen. This is where the relationship of teacher and student became a little complicated: Eisen himself had a number of students collectively called Kikugawa school, but Eizan is regarded to be the school’s founder. The artist remained unmarried and childless and is believed to have been looked after by one of his students during his later years.

More Information
Print FormatOban (Horizontal)
ArtistEizan Kikugawa (1787 - 1867)
SubjectMale & Female, Shunga Erotica
Size38.6 x 26 cm
Condition ReportCentrefold. Some restored wormholes. Faint stain on the centre right. Light soiling.