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Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III): Chushingura prints

Acts VII: Actors Onoe Kikugorô IV as Okaru, Kataoka Nizaemon VIII as Ôboshi Yuranosuke, Nakamura Kamezô I as Ono Kudayû (R), Nakamura Fukusuke I as Teraoka Heiemon, Bando Tamasaburô II as the Daughter (Musume) Konami, and Onoe Kikugorô IV as Honzô's Wife (Nyôbô) Tonase, from the series Twelve Continuous Acts of The Storehouse of Loyal Retainers, (Kanadehon Chûshingura), 1860, Color Woodblock Print

Printmaker

Prints of Utagawa Kunisada are the exception to the MBFA gallery residency rule. Utagawa Kunisada (1789 - 1865) never lived in Lyme or Thetford, indeed he never left Japan. Japan was a closed society until 1853 (foreigners were excluded and no Japanese were allowed to leave Japan). The year Admiral Perry forced open the country to visitors and trade (1853) Kunisada was 64 and at the peak of his artistic production. Friend to many popular actors of the time, he had been for decades the most successful artist in Edo, intensely immersed in the complex culture of theater and art production of that city (one of the largest cities of the world).

Kunisada lived in Edo towards the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, a 200-year period of military dictatorship ending in 1868. Largely overlooked by art history until recently, Kunisada was exceptionally prolific (the MFA in Boston owns over 10,000 prints designed by Kunisada). Kunisada had the most students, produced and sold the most prints, and enjoyed the most prestige.

Gifted a Kunisada print in 1995, my interest in Kunisada was piqued in 2013 by Prof Allen Hockley of Dartmouth College. Prof. Hockley, while describing the scale of the _ukiyo-e_ print art industry, described “no one knows how big this industry making these woodblock prints was, and actually Matt, the guy who made by far the largest number of prints was Kunisada”. Fascination grew while visiting the Boston MFA’s first exhibit of Kunisada’s art, “Showdown: Kunisada vs. Kuniyoshi” in the fall of 2017, curated by Sarah Thompson. Later finding these wonderfully crafted and designed prints available and affordable, I began purchasing prints from dealers and through online auctions with a notion of getting to know Kunisada better. A maker of color woodblock prints myself using the same Japanese _hanga_ method, I see this pursuit as a way to deepen my appreciation of what is possible with the _hanga_ printmaking process. I think of Kunisada as “my teacher”.

Portait of Kunisada by his student Toyohara Kunichika (1835 - 1900), 1863, Color Woodblock Print

Actors Sawamura Tanosuke III as Okaru and Bando Hikosaburo V as Hayano Kampei,(Chûshingura), 1862

Actors Bandô Hikosaburô V as Tonase and Sawamura Tosshô II as Konami, (Chûshingura), 1862, Color Woodblock Print, $525

Actor Morita Kan'ya XI as Kakogawa Honzô, from the series Stories of the True Loyalty of the Faithful Samurai (Chushingura), 1864, Color Woodblock Print

Actors Sawamura Chôjûrô V as Kampei (R) and Onoe Baikô IV as Okaru (L)(2nd state), 1849, Color Woodblock Print

Actors Sawamura Chôjûrô V as Kanpei (R) and Onoe Baikô IV as Okaru (L) (first state), 1849 , Color Woodblock Print

Chushingura, Act 7, in the Ichiriki Teahouse at Gion: Okaru with her brother T. Heiemon as Oboshi Yuranosuke looks on , 1854, Color Woodblock Print

Acts I, II and III: Actors Onoe Kikugorô IV as Wife (Tsuma) Kaoyo, Onoe Baikô 4.5 as Momonoi Wakasanosuke, Kataoka Nizaemon VIII as Kakogawa Honzô (R), Nakamura Fukusuke I as Hayano Kanpei, Nakamura Kansuke I as Sagisaka Bannai, and Onoe Kikugorô IV as Koshimoto Okaru, (Chûshingura), 1860, Color Woodblock Print

Acts IV, V, VI: Actors Onoe Kikugorô IV as Okaru, Kataoka Nizaemon VIII as Ôboshi Yuranosuke, Nakamura Kamezô I as Ono Kudayû (R), Nakamura Fukusuke I as Teraoka Heiemon, Nakamura Fukusuke I as Hayano Kampei, (Chushingura), 1860, Color Woodblock Print

Twelve Continuous Acts of The Storehouse of Loyal Retainers (Chushingura): Acts VII, VIII, IX: Actors Onoe Kikugorô IV as Okaru, Kataoka Nizaemon VIII as Ôboshi Yuranosuke, Nakamura Kamezô I as Ono Kudayû (R), Nakamura Fukusuke I as Teraoka Heiemon, Bando Tamasaburô II as the Daughter (Musume) Konami, and Onoe Kikugorô IV as Honzô's Wife (Nyôbô) Tonase, 1860, Color Woodblock Print

Act X & XI: Actors Onoe Kikugorô IV as Osono, Kataoka Gatô II as Ôboshi Rikiya, Onoe Baikô as Senzaki Yagorô, and Kataoka Nizaemon VIII as Kô no Moronao, (Chûshingura), 1860, Color Woodblock Print

Actors Sawamura Chôjûrô V as Yuranosuke and Sawamura Tossho II as Rikiya, from the series Seven Calligraphic Models for Each Character in the Kana Syllabary, Number 10,000 (Man) of the Iroha, 1856, Color Woodblock Print

Actors Bandô Shûka I as Okaru and Ichikawa Danjûrô VIII as Hayano Kampei, from the series Seven Calligraphic Models for Each Character in the Kana Syllabary (Iroha), the Syllable Wo (O), 1856, Color Woodblock Print

Ichikawa Danjûrô VIII as Yazama Jutarô and Bandô Shûka I as his Wife Orie, from the series "Heroes of the Storehouse of Loyal Retainers" (Chûshingura), 1855, Color Woodblock Print

Acts VII: Actors Onoe Kikugorô IV as Okaru, Kataoka Nizaemon VIII as Ôboshi Yuranosuke, Nakamura Kamezô I as Ono Kudayû (R), Nakamura Fukusuke I as Teraoka Heiemon, Bando Tamasaburô II as the Daughter (Musume) Konami, and Onoe Kikugorô IV as Honzô's Wife (Nyôbô) Tonase, from the series Twelve Continuous Acts of The Storehouse of Loyal Retainers, (Kanadehon Chûshingura), 1860, Color Woodblock Print, $650

Ronin heading to the Sengakuji Temple, 1854

Chushingura: Danjuro VIII as Hayano Kampei, Color Woodblock Print

Act II: Actors Ichikawa Kuzô II as Kakogawa Honzô and Ichikawa Danjûrô VIII as Momonoi Wakasanosuke, (Chûshingura), 1851, Color Woodblock Print

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