Utagawa Toyokuni II (1777-1835) Actors Ichikawa Danjuro and Onoe Kikugoro Fighting in the Rain, c. 1820. Oban Diptych.
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A fabulous print by any standards. Toyokuni II is a rare artist and this diptych as far as I can tell remains unknown. The print speaks volumes about the tense relationships between the reigning artist of the day - Toyokuni I - and his colleagues, pupils, family and successors. Unfortunately Toyokuni II did not do so well out of the rivalries, which is a pity since as this print attests, he was an outstanding print artist. He was the pupil, son-in-law and adopted son of Toyokuni I. The former used the name Toyoshige until 1826, the year after his teacher's death, when he began signing his work Toyokuni. Kunisada, another student of Toyokuni I, did not recognise Toyoshige’s claim and declared himself "Toyokuni" and leader of the school. Toyoshige resumed signing his work "Toyoshige". Kunisada eventually adopted the name Toyokuni III.
The work is clearly indebted to the style of his teacher and father in law. The roundels at the top corners of each sheet bearing a striking resemblance to Toyokuni I's style, notably in the 1823 portrait of Danjuro VII. But there is so much more to this print than an indebtedness to Toyokuni or a rivalry to the upcoming Kunisada. The composition, the balance and the colour of the print is both fresh and original. The stances of the actors is striking and at the same time very much of the prevailing Utagawa style. The depiction of rain is outstanding in its brevity and delicacy. Overall, this is a fine and a rare piece of art and very desirable.
The diptych is very fresh, colour and impression are terrific and the condition is excellent notwithstanding some marginal wormage.
50 x 36 cm.