Kunisada, Enjoyments of Beauties of the Present Day - Fond of Fishing

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Enjoyments of Beauties of the Present Day (Nijushi ko toji no hanamono): Fond of Fishing (Tsuri ko), 1863. Oban.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

A 2013 show of ukiyo-e depictions of women contained some very lovely prints. The show looked at the ways that women were represented in Japanese prints throughout the nineteenth century. The catalogue essay, Impressions of Women in Japanese Prints, looked specifically at how Japanese artist’s realism was so influential on emerging avante garde European and American painting in the later part of the century. Prints such as this, with their casual depiction of ordinary women engaged in naturalistic pursuits were to change the course of art in the west profoundly. The full impact and importance of that influence has not yet been fully acknowledged.

This is from Kunisada’s last series of prints devoted to women in 1863. It is a beautiful and notable series as was all of his late production. The title is self explanatory - twenty-four separate images of women engaged in different contemporary pursuits. Though only a matter of months until the momentous Meiji restoration and years after the first stirrings of modernisation in Japan, this is backward looking. Kunisada shows traditional Japanese women, dressed in kimono and with elaborate hair pins, engaged in traditional pursuits. There is a  beauty and a tenderness in these images and also perhaps a yearning for a disappearing world.

The clue to the subject of the piece is often found in the large cartouche above the figure, in this case a fishing rod and the accoutrements of angling. The inset drawing is by one of Kunisada’s pupils; by the loose, painterly style of the drawing I suspect the artist is Ryoko, a little known ukiyo-e artist who studied under Kunisada and remained active in the 1860’s and 1870’s.

A very beautiful print delicately drawn and typical of the quality of much of Kunisada’s late  work. The print is in exceptional condition, full size and with margins. Colour and impression are very fine.

Signed oju Toyokuni rojin hitsu.

Published by Fujiokaya Keijiro (shorindo) with Toshidama seal.

26cm x 36cm.