Utagawa Kuniyoshi



A legendary member of the Utagawa school, Utagawa Kuniyoshi is considered to be one of the last great masters of the Japanese ukiyo-e style of woodblock prints and painting. Some say Utagawa Kuniyoshi was the most thrilling Ukiyo-e master. Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese art that flourished from the 17th through 19th centuries. Its artists produced woodblock prints and paintings of such subjects as female beauties; kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers; scenes from history and folk tales; travel scenes and landscapes; flora and fauna; and erotica.

The range of Kuniyoshi's subjects included many genres: landscapes, beautiful women, Kabuki actors, cats, and mythical animals. He is known for his depictions of the battles of legendary samurai heroes. His artwork incorporated aspects of Western representation in landscape painting and caricature. In direct contrast to the peaceful views of scenic Japan provided by Hiroshige and Hokusai, the following decades saw a rise of the fierce, fearsome, and fantastical in ukiyo-e. Kuniyoshi welcomed this changing public taste. He had a ravenous imagination and the full scope of his work reveals an aesthetic sensibility capable of capturing almost any experience.

His particular genius felt most at home in the world of martial glory, where epic battles decided the fate of empires and fierce warriors clashed to the death. Kuniyoshi's prints were so popular in his time that he received requests for tattoo designs. Today, his brilliant art can be found from tattooed and prints, all the way to the Bearbrick figures.

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