Harunobu Suzuki

Born in Edo, where he also worked, Harunobu was one of the leading print artists of his time. He played a major role in the development of nishiki-e, the polychrome print.  The strongest influence during his early years came from the Kyoto master Sukenobu, along with Kiyomitsu, Toyonobu and the ukiyo-e painters of the Kawamata school. His study of the principles and methods of the Kanō school and of such 16th-century Chinese genre painters as Ch’iu Ying abd T’ang Yin is also reflected in his work. In about 1762 Harunobu finally arrived at a style of his own, which from then on exercised a decisive influence on ukiyo-e painting generally. He is the archetypal painter of bijin-ga portraits. He presents ladies of the demi-monde, middle-class women going about their everyday tasks, and women in mythological scenes, all executed in elegant colour and well-differentiated technique. In 1764 he was commissioned to design pictures for calendars, which were later brought out by the publisher Shokakudo. The impetus for the wider distribution of these early nishiki-e came from clubs of intellectuals, poets and artists in Edo. Harunobu, appointed the intellectual leader of one such club, was asked to design New Year’s and other congratulatory cards, so-called e-goyomi. For club members, aesthetically demanding as they were, no price was too high. Costly materials were used, and by 1765 the polychrome print was in full flower. Instead of just two or three colours, the whole range of the artist’s palette was now available. Harunobu also painted erotic scenes, and he liked to have such celebrated beauties as O-Sen and O-Fuji sit for him.

Harunobu Suzuki

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