- SHUNGA - EROTIC ART - PRINTS etc.
Masterpieces of Women by Ukiyo-e Master
One of the
predominant themes in the arts of Man anywhere in the world
has always been the woman and her beauty. Parodoxically, few
artists are primarily identified with this theme. One major
exeption to this phenomenon is the Japanese artist Kitagawa
Utamaro (1753-1806) who dedicated is whole artistic life
exploring this beauty. He specialized in the posture, the
character, the softness of the skin and the grace of the woman
and fully utilized the characteristic of the woodblock to
obtain the essence of female nature.
five bijin (beauty print) designs are among his most
acclaimed masterpieces and are in no particular order.
Woman with Kintaro (c.1801)
designed nearly fifty prints of the mountain woman
Yamamba and her son Kintaro (a.k.a. Kintoki) in various
settings and formats. This naga-oban (c. 20 3/4" x
9 1/2") design is Utamaro's most well-known print
depicting this subject. In this scene the viewer can
feel true motherly love from Yamamba as she's trying to
calm the little boy with chestnuts while fondling him as
he is holding on to her. The soft colour combination is
beautifully contrasted with the strong colours used for
Kintaro, emphasizing his health and strength.
in Love (c.1793)
Utamaro's five part series Kasen: ko no bu
(Selected Love Poems) this okubi-e (bust
portrait/ half length portrait) design is generally
considered the best of this set of prints. The title in
the English translation of this print is 'Love Which
One Can Not Put Out in One's Mind' and is the
portrayal of a mature woman resting her head on her
hand. Her eyebrows are shaven, which indicates she's
married, and her eyes are narrowed in a dreamily gaze
looking into the distance. In this series Utamaro
focuses on the facial expressions of these women using
fine lines and soft delicate colors trying to expose
their inner feelings.
value $1,000,000 - $1,500,000 offered
a New York Christies auction sale in 2008)
ordinary woman depicted in a half-kneeling position
looking in a mirror which she holds in her hand. She's
applying red lipstick to her mouth after she blackened
her teeth. In this design Utamaro proofs his mastery in
depicting women wearing everyday clothes placed in an
ordinary setting. The subtle contrast between the red
lipstick and the white of the skin is a magnificent
detail. The black box in front of her contains
implements for blackening the teeth.
Reading a Letter (c.1791)
following print is from Utamaro's famous 'Ten
Physiognomical Studies of women' -series and is a
study of a noble looking middle-aged woman reading a
letter, with her hands outstretched to unfold it. A
masterpiece because of its simplicity and superb
composition. Some prints of this design have a pink-mica
background instead of silver-mica. The pink was made
after the silver.
belongs to the same series as the foregiving one and is
probably the most celebrated single bijin
portrait in the history of Ukiyo-e. The model of this
print is thought to be a daughter of Takashima Chobei
who was a proprietor of a tea-house in Ryogoku Yagenbori.
The viewer can feel the sweetness of this girl who is a
daughter of a well-to-do family. It seems that Utamaro
often painted Takashima Ohisa (like many other
contemporaries) by preference.
He also painted Ohisa in the series 'Six Famous
Beautiful Women', even after her marriage and as the
proverb says: "Beauty is often inconsistent with
luck", this pretty Ohisa died young leaving two