Utamaro Kitagawa was a printmaker and painter. He was and remains one of the artist best known to the West, along with Hokusai and Hiroshige. The first actor prints Utamaro produced were primarily based on the style of the Katsukawa school. He later favoured Kitao Masanobu’s and Kiyonaga’s aesthetic who were both famous for their elegantly elongated images of women. In 1788 Utamaro finally achieved national recognition for his work. It was a number of albums of the highest compositional and technical quality that aided him in this achievement. These albums were published by Juzaburo Tsutaya who happened to be the most famous publisher of his day, with whom Utamaro created a large amount of outstanding work. Artist and publisher eventually joined forces to produce innovative work, which included figures with larger heads, three-quarter length portraits with mica powder background and a vast array of pictures of famous courtesans from Yoshiwara, the pleasure district. His most admired works are the aforementioned bust portraits with mica background. Some of them depict celebrated beauties of the day, while others show anonymous characters. The foremost focus of the latter is supposed to be the character of the young woman who is pictured. This type of portrait was unusual at the time, which Utamaro recognised and exploited, sometimes signing his work with ‘Utamaro the physiognomist’.