Toyokuni III Utagawa, Nakamura Shikan, Tattoo Design

SKU
JG071924
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Artist: Toyokuni III Utagawa (1786-1865)
Title: Actor Nakamura Shikan Plays as Tairiki Tomigoro
Series: Modern Water Margin
Publisher: Iseya Kanekichi
Date: 1861
Size: 37.2 x 25 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.


Kunisada’s pictures reflect the culture of Japan in the years leading up to the country’s opening to the West. His first book illustrations were published in 1807, his first actor portrait the following year, alongside theatrical scenes and courtesans, yakusha-e was his preferred genre amidst all his popular and extensive output. As he painted very many of these, continuing the stout realism of his teacher, he acquired the sobriquet 'Yakusha-e no Kunisada' – Kunisada, the actor painter. From 1830 he continued the development of the Utagawa school, and from 1844 onwards signed his works Toyokuni III.

This print series by Kunisada, given the deliberately vague title 'A Modern Water Margin', shows famous actors in imaginary roles loosely based on the members of a real-life group of outlaws. Their story was too close to present-day reality to be permitted as a play or printed book, but circulated in printed woodblocks.


Tomigoro, a former sumo wrestler, was the second in command and became the leader of the outlaws after the death of the founder.

More Information
Print Format Oban (Vertical)
Artist Name Toyokuni III Utagawa (Kunisada I)
Title Actor Nakamura Shikan Plays as Tairiki Tomigoro
Subject Samurai & Male, Kabuki Theatre, Tattoo
Dimensions 37.2 x 25 cm
Condition Report Slightly yellowed, vertical crease on the left, minor wormhole.
Publisher Iseya Kanekichi

Toyokuni III Utagawa (Kunisada I)


Kunisada became a pupil of Toyokuni at the age of 15, and would later, after the latter’s death, assume his name. Kunisada’s pictures reflect the culture of Japan in the years leading up to the country’s opening to the West. His first book illustrations were published in 1807 and his first actor portrait the following year. Alongside theatrical scenes and courtesans, yakusha-e was his preferred genre amidst all his popular and extensive output. As he painted very many of these, continuing the stout realism of his teacher, he acquired the sobriquet “Yakusha-e no Kunisada” – Kunisada, the actor painter. In his numerous bijin-ga he clung to the deal of beauty prevalent at the time. While his style must be described as powerful and realistic, even coarsely so, his draughtsmanship and coloration are if anything monotonous and lacking finesse. From 1830 he continued the development of the Utagawa school, and from 1844 onwards signed his works Toyokuni III.